Ukraine Patriot team to train in U.S. as fighting drags on with Russia

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About 100 Ukrainian soldiers are heading to an Army post in southwest Oklahoma that was built during the Indian Wars. But the troops are going to Fort Sill to learn how to operate and maintain a Patriot missile battery, part of the most advanced ground-to-air air defense system in the U.S. arsenal.

The training is set to begin as soon as next week, Defense Department officials told reporters on Tuesday, as the U.S. and its allies escalate the number and sophistication of the weapons being shipped to Kyiv as it battles a Russian invasion force.

“The Patriot will contribute to Ukraine’s air defense and provide another capability to the Ukrainian people to defend themselves against Russia’s ongoing aerial assaults,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman said.

U.S. soldiers as well as those from allied countries already train to operate the Patriot missile system at Fort Sill.

The Biden administration confirmed last month that it would be sending the sophisticated Patriot missile battery to Ukraine. The system also includes several maintenance and support vehicles as well as the missile launcher.

“This is part of a broader effort by the United States and the international community to provide Ukraine with the air defense capabilities that it needs to defend its population and its armed forces,” Gen. Ryder said.

The U.S. has committed more than $24 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022. Most recently, the Pentagon announced that 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and 500 TOW anti-tank missiles would be drawn from U.S. stocks and sent to Ukraine.

Even as the Ukrainian air defense soldiers head to the U.S. for training, heavy fighting is continuing in the disputed Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In his most recent address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday said the Russians have concentrated their greatest efforts in the city of Soledar.

Security analysts say officials with the Wagner Group, a shadowy mercenary army with links to the Kremlin, are using reports of heavy fighting in Soledar to bolster its reputation as an effective fighting force. They claim to have captured territory there over the past few days and predicting they may soon encircle the heavily contested city of Bakhmut.

The fallout for the Kremlin from President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade nearly a year ago continued Tuesday, as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the way was clearing for Finland and Sweden will join the military alliance, just days after the government in Stockholm said it had done all it could to satisfy Turkey’s reservations about the alliance’s expansion. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made a surprise visit to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, raising hopes Berlin could soon step up its arms flow to Kyiv.


Separately, Armenia announced it would not host a joint military exercise by a Russian-led security alliance later this year over Russia’s reluctance to defend it in the recent conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has repeatedly criticized Russian peacekeepers for failure to secure free transit along a corridor linking Armenia and the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh that Azerbaijani activists have blocked since last month, the Associated Press reported.

Mr. Pashinyan told reporters in Yerevan Tuesday that the military exercise the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization planned for later this year “inappropriate in the current situation.”

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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