By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, April 14, 2015 – The Defense Department announced today that Canada will be joining the DoD-State Department initiative to help train members of the Ukrainian National Guard which was announced last month.
Speaking to reporters, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren praised Canada for its contributions and for joining the National Guard training mission in Ukraine.
“We welcome our close friend and strong ally Canada’s contributions to the Ukrainian National Guard training program,” he said, adding that Canada has provided non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine throughout the ongoing crisis.
“Earlier this year,” Warren said, “Canada joined the United States-Ukraine joint commission. We look forward to continuing our long-standing defense relationship while undertaking this important endeavor.”
DoD officials announced March 20 about 290 U.S. service members from the Vicenza, Italy-based 173rd “Sky Soldiers” Airborne Brigade, would go to the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv, near the Polish border, and train six Ukraine National Guard companies with a focus on internal security and territorial defense in western Ukraine.
The colonel also noted DoD is “certainly aware” of three Russian naval vessels that are sailing through the English Channel.
“We know our allies, the [British], are tracking them very closely as are we,” Warren said. “We’ve often said that nations have the ability to travel through international waters as long as they respect all international standards of conduct and territorial integrity, and laws.”
He said, “We call on the Russians to ensure they do that in this case.” He added that nothing suggests the Russians have violated these “norms.”
The colonel also noted there are no indications Russia is conducting any sort of exercise.
“I know that’s the Russians’ claim,” Warren said, “but we’ve seen no evidence of any type of exercise. And I believe the Brits have actually said as much as well.”
Minsk Agreement Violations
Warren said there’s “no question” Russian-backed separatists have “repeatedly” violated the terms of the Minsk cease-fire agreement.
“This is something that we keep a very close eye on,” he said. “[There’s] also no question that the Russians continue to operate inside of Ukrainian territory.”
In fact, Warren said, the Russians have actually set up some training centers inside of eastern Ukraine where they’re helping train separatists in tasks such as gunnery and artillery firing drills.
“We also know that they continue to maintain advanced surface-to-air missile systems near the front line which is in direct violation of the Minsk agreements,” he said.
And, Warren said, the Russians have command and control elements inside of Ukraine that are helping to coordinate military operations there.
“So [these are] all examples of the Russians continuing to provide support to the separatists,” he said.