Ukrainian forces begin expanded U.S. military training in Germany
The U.S. military began expanded combat training of Ukrainian forces in Germany Sunday — with some 500 soldiers set to participate in the "combined arms" program over the next weeks before returning to Ukraine, per AP.
Driving the news: Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told two reporters traveling with him to Europe that the large-scale training in addition to a raft of new weaponry for Ukraine would be crucial in Ukrainian forces' push to regain territory seized by Russia's military, as the invasion nears its 11th month, AP reports.
- Milley was due to visit on Monday Germany's Grafenwoehr training facility to examine the program — which U.S. officials announced plans for last month, along with a pledge to provide Ukraine with a Patriot missile defense battery.
Zoom in: The Biden administration has provided billions of dollars in security assistance for Ukraine — including the authorization this month of a $3 billion-plus military aid package that includes infantry fighting vehicles, artillery rounds and ammunition for rocket systems.
What they're saying: The U.S. military program's aim is for the incoming military equipment to reach Ukraine "sometime before the spring rains show up" so the newly trained troops can use it, Milley said, per AP.
- Milley told the Washington Post Sunday it'd "take a bit of time" to get the Ukrainian troops combat-ready with the tanks, artillery, combat vehicles and other weaponry — "five, six, seven, eight weeks, who knows."
- However, he said the soldiers' familiarity with the T-72 tank and other armored weapons would ease the situation. "We'll see what happens here," Milley added. "But in terms of the criticality of it, the need is now."
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told German outlet Handelsblatt Sunday he expected Western nations to send more "heavy warfare equipment ... in the near future."
- "We are in a decisive phase of the war," Stoltenberg added. "Therefore, it is important that we provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs to win."
Of note: Milley told WashPost the biggest priority for Ukrainian forces was to have more air defenses.
- Putin's forces have been bombarding cities across Ukraine, with the deadliest missile attack on a civilian building in months when at least 35 people died in an apartment block strike in the central city of Dnipro Saturday.
- "They're getting hit every few weeks with really significant attacks, and their attacks on the civilian infrastructure," Milley said.
- "The Russians are consciously, as a matter of policy, attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure. That in of itself is a war crime."
The bottom line: "This support is really important for Ukraine to be able to defend itself," Milley said, according to AP. "And we're hoping to be able to pull this together here in short order."
Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and to reflect that Ukrainian officials revised the death toll in the missile strike on Dnipro up from 30.