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US training Ukraine troops will anger Moscow, analyst

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Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko at a welcome ceremony for the delivery of 10 Humvee vehicles from the US on 25 March 2015 Reuters/Gleb Garanich

Some 290 US paratroopers are to start training Ukrainian troops next month, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Monday. The move is likely to anger Russia, analyst Sarah Lain told RFI.


The US paratroopers will arrive on 20 April at the Yavoriv military zone in the region of Liv, near the Polish border.

Soldiers from the US 173rd Airborne brigade, based in Italy, will instruct around 900 troops from the National Guard of Ukraine in three waves of training, each lasting eight weeks, followed by joint war games.

The idea is to help the Ukrainian military better defend its positions in eastern Ukraine against pro-Russian separatist rebels.

In 2013 the country spent 1.3 billion euros on its army, compared to Russia's 52 billion Euros, almost 50 times as much.

Ukrainian troops are in dire need of training, says Sarah Lain, a researcher at the United Royal Services Institute in London.

"The battles with separatists in eastern Ukraine have been challenging for them because of capacity issues," she told RFI on Monday.

The training of Ukraine troops by US military is part of a wider strategy from the Ukrainian government.

Since the beginning of the conflict with separatists last year, the country has been buying equipment for its troops.

Just last week Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko took delivery of 10 US armoured vehicles.

Ukraine's main challenge lies with its soldiers, since its forces have little fighting experience.

The move is likely to anger Moscow, says Lain.

"I think they'll see it as a provocation that will justify to them the Russian narrative that this is a Nato-backed coup in Kiev," she explains. "It will also provoke from Moscow warnings about any further assistance to the Ukrainian troops."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly accused the US of fuelling the crisis in eastern Ukraine.

The conflict between separatists, backed by Moscow, and Ukraine's government began just over a year ago and has claimed over 6,000 lives.

A shaky ceasefire is currently in place in eastern Ukraine but skirmishes continue on a daily basis.