US ground troops to train in Ukraine next week

A wooden cross marks the grave of a Ukrainian government soldier seen between destroyed military vehicles in the village of Osykove, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. Ukrainian troops have over the past week suffered a string of major military losses in their offensive against Russian-backed separatist rebels, losing large swathes of territory and having hundreds of soldiers captured. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A wooden cross marks the grave of a Ukrainian government soldier seen between destroyed military vehicles in the village of Osykove, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. Ukrainian troops have over the past week suffered a string of major military losses in their offensive against Russian-backed separatist rebels, losing large swathes of territory and having hundreds of soldiers captured. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon says 200 U.S. soldiers will participate in an exercise in western Ukraine starting next week. It would be the first presence of American ground troops in Ukraine since the crisis with Russian-backed separatists began.

The annual exercise, called Rapid Trident, involves forces from 15 nations and will not involve live firing of weapons. A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Steve Warren, said it will be a peacekeeping exercise with training through Sept. 26 in convoy operations, patrolling and methods of countering improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

Warren said the U.S. troops are from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Italy.

The Pentagon also announced it has delivered more non-lethal aid to the Ukrainian military, including helmets, explosive ordnance disposal robots, sleeping mats, jackets, radios, body armor and first-aid kits.

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