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US to expand training of Ukrainian forces: Pentagon

A Ukrainian trooper fires a mortar at Russian positions in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine on November 10, 2022. (Photo by AP)

The US military will expand its training of Ukrainian forces to include more troops and more complex battle skills amid Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, according to the Pentagon and American officials.

So far during the war, the US has trained as many as 3,100 Ukrainian troops on deployment and maintenance of various weapons.

However, the US is planning to train some 500 forces each month, Pentagon's Press Secretary, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said on Thursday.

The expanded training was expected to begin "in the January timeframe," he told reporters, according to the Associated Press.

The aim, AP added, was to use the winter months to hone the skills of the Ukrainian forces in the face of Russian attacks or Moscow's alleged efforts to expand its territorial gains.

Until now, the US focus has been on providing Ukrainian forces with "immediate battlefield needs," Ryder said. "Now, ...the idea here is to be able to give them this advanced level of collective training that enables them to conduct effective combined arms operations and maneuver on the battlefield," he added.

Other American officials, meanwhile, said the enhanced training mission had been planned to mirror, to some extent, the types of training that US forces receive at the Defense Department's training centers, such as those in California and Louisiana.

Russia's war on Ukraine started in late February with Moscow saying that it was aimed at defending the pro-Russian population in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk against persecution by Kiev.

Ever since the beginning of the war, Ukraine's Western allies, led by the US, have been pumping the ex-Soviet Republic full of advanced weapons and slapping Russia with a slew of sanctions, steps Moscow says will only prolong the conflict.

Also on Thursday, European Union governments agreed on a ninth package of sanctions against Russia, Reuters reported, citing EU diplomats.

The report did not reveal which Russian legal and natural entities or which section of the Russian economy were to be targeted by the fresh coercive measures.

It, however, noted that the package was to be formalized through what the EU calls a "written procedure" by Friday noon.

Last month, Hungary slammed the EU's sanctions against Russia as counterproductive intervention in the conflict that could quickly turn the bloc into an actual "belligerent."

"It's a step towards war, if someone intervenes economically in a military conflict," Prime Minister Viktor Orban said during a radio interview at the time.

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