PENTAGON — The Pentagon has confirmed that U.S. forces will begin training Ukrainian troops on the Patriot missile defense system at Fort Sill in Oklahoma later this month, after VOA and other outlets had reported the news earlier Tuesday.
Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder announced Tuesday during a briefing at the Pentagon that the training at Fort Sill could begin “as soon as next week.”
“The training will prepare approximately 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers to operate, maintain and sustain the defensive system over a training course expected to last several months,” Ryder said, adding that a Patriot battery would give Ukraine another capability to defend its people against Russia’s ongoing aerial assaults.
Fort Sill is home to the U.S. Army’s field artillery school.
Ryder said the U.S. would look for ways to “accelerate the training timeline” so Ukrainians could return to the battlefield as quickly as possible.
Last week, the Pentagon announced that it would send 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine as part of a new round of military aid to Kyiv to help Ukrainian forces fight off an invasion by Russia.
During Tuesday’s briefing, Ryder said training on the Bradleys would be part of the combined arms training that Ukrainians would complete in Germany.
The Bradleys will come with hundreds of TOW anti-tank guided missiles and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition, according to an official document shared with VOA before Friday’s announcement.
“It's not a tank, but it's a tank killer,” Ryder said last week.
NATO and European Union leaders have reinforced their commitment to providing Ukraine with military support to counter Russia’s nearly year-old invasion, including providing advanced air defenses and other equipment.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters Tuesday she thinks Ukraine should get all the military equipment it needs to defend itself, “because they also defend the basic principles of the U.N. Charter, of the fundamental rights of the international law.”
Speaking alongside von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel after a meeting in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the announcements in recent days by the United States, Germany and France of plans to provide Ukraine with new types of armor and armored vehicles. He stressed the need to also keep a focus on training, maintenance and ammunition for the existing systems that allies have sent to Ukraine’s forces.
“NATO allies and EU members have depleted their stocks to provide support to Ukraine, and that has been the right thing to do because this is also about our security. And of course, we need to use our capabilities, our stocks, our ammunition, to support Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
He added that while Ukrainian forces have been able to inflict losses on Russia’s military, Russia should not be underestimated. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no indication of changing “the overall aim of his brutal war against Ukraine.”
“The regime in Moscow wants a different Europe. It wants to control its neighbors, and it sees democracy and freedom as a threat,” Stoltenberg said. “This will have long-lasting consequences for our security, so we must continue to strengthen the vital transatlantic bond in NATO. We must continue to strengthen the partnership between NATO and the European Union. And we must further strengthen our support to Ukraine.”
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday that Russian forces and those from the mercenary Wagner Group were “probably now in control” of most of Soledar, a small salt mining town in eastern Ukraine located in one of the areas of the fiercest fighting.
The fighting for Soledar has resulted in heavy losses for both sides.
In his nightly address on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the destruction in Soledar.
“There are almost no whole walls left,” he said.
Zelenskyy added, “Due to the resilience of our warriors there in Soledar, we have gained additional time and additional power for Ukraine.”
About 10 kilometers from Soledar is Bakhmut, which the British Defense Ministry said in its latest daily assessment is likely Russia’s main target in Ukraine.
"Despite the increased pressure on Bakhmut, Russia is unlikely to envelop the town imminently because Ukrainian forces maintain stable defensive lines in depth and control over supply routes,” the British ministry said.
A senior U.S. military official, who spoke to reporters Monday on the condition of anonymity, called the fight in Bakhmut “really savage.”
“And what I mean by savage is, you're talking about thousands upon thousands of artillery rounds that have been delivered between both sides,” the official said, adding that Russian mercenary forces sacrifice their weaker soldiers by putting them on the front lines. (KB/VOA)