General Mark Milley visits Ukrainian forces training with US troops



GRAFENWOEHR TRAINING AREA, Germany – The Pentagon General on Monday visited two sites in Germany used by the U.S. military to hone the combat skills of their Ukrainian counterparts, offering encouragement to those in the training camp and providing guidance the American soldiers, instructing them to squeeze as much as possible into the newly established program before the Ukrainians go back to war.

“This is not an ordinary rotation,” said Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of the curriculum. “This is one of those moments in time where if you want to make a difference, this is it.”

The general’s visit marked his first trip to this facility in the muddy Bavarian countryside since the Russian invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago. The base, which covers about 90 square miles, began receiving Ukrainian forces in 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. It is now the site of a newly expanded regime for the Ukrainian military, which sent a battalion of more than 600 troops to spend up to six weeks learning how to deploy tanks, artillery and other weapons to maximize their effects ahead of an expected counter-offensive against the Russians. entrenched forces on the territory of Ukraine.

While in Grafenwoehr, Ukrainians are headquartered at Camp Kherson, apparently named after the town Ukrainian forces liberated in November.

Three American journalists were allowed to accompany Milley as he interacted with Ukrainian troops, on the condition that no photographs or videos were taken, and their specific conversations with them were not publicized. The United States and its allies continue to increase their military support for the Kyiv government, but officials remain deeply concerned about how the assistance is perceived in Russia. The Kremlin has accused the United States and NATO of using Ukrainians to wage a proxy war with Moscow.

Later on Monday, the US military released a single photograph from the tour. showing Milley observing the training flanked by a circle of US military officers, including Brig. General Joseph E. Hilbert, commanding general of the 7th Army Training Command based at the facility.

Milley also visited another Army headquarters in Wiesbaden, west of Frankfurt, where a planning conference with Ukrainian military officials was in progress. Journalists were not allowed to observe the meeting and details about it were not released.

The general’s trips to Germany came as senior civilian officials in the Biden administration visited Kyiv itself. Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State; Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy; and Jon Finer, White House deputy national security adviser, met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials.

Ukrainian soldiers started arriving in Grafenwoehr late last week and began training on Sunday. Milley observed them at a shooting range and became acquainted with US-supplied Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, advanced weapons that President Biden approved for transfer to Ukraine earlier this month when the Pentagon said they intended to help Ukraine retake territory from Russian control.

In sub-40-degree temperatures, Milley joked with Ukrainian soldiers and asked about their backgrounds and combat experience, sometimes in English and sometimes through an interpreter. Their mission is urgent, noted Milley, and has international support. Conversations were punctuated by occasional gunfire as nearby Ukrainian soldiers honed their skills with rifles and the M240B machine gun.

A spokesman for Milley, Colonel David Butler, said the training is an extension of what the United States has provided since 2014. It is part of the international effort, Butler said, to help Ukrainian forces repel Russian invaders.

“The urgency was clear,” Butler said. “These soldiers will defend their country in combat.”

Milley, speaking Sunday as he flew to Europe from Washington, emphasized the timeliness of the effort, although he acknowledged that it was not yet clear how quickly the Ukrainian unit brought to Germany would be ready to use the new weapons in combat.

“It’s going to take a little time,” Milley said. “Five, six, seven, eight weeks, who knows. We’ll see what happens here. But in terms of criticality, the need is now.”

Milley is expected to spend the week in Europe, also visiting a facility used as a way station to transport weapons to Ukraine and meeting senior Allied military officials. On Friday, he will join Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the latest meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group, a regular gathering of international defense officials who are open to helping Ukraine militarily. and examine what kind of equipment they can provide.

The general said that while Ukraine emphasizes its desire for tanks and other armored vehicles, its main need is more air defense, a persistent challenge underscored by Russia’s launch of a missile attack over the weekend on an apartment complex in the city. of Dnipro that killed dozens of people.

“They are being hit every few weeks with really significant attacks, and they are attacks on civilian infrastructure,” the general said. “The Russians are knowingly, as a matter of policy, attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure. That in itself is a war crime.”

War in Ukraine: what you need to know

The most recently: Russia said on Friday it had taken control of Soledar, a hotly contested salt mining town in eastern Ukraine where fighting has raged in recent days, but a Ukrainian military official said the battle was not yet over.

Russia’s bet: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior US, Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

Photos: The Washington Post photographers have been on the ground since the beginning of the war – here are some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways the US can support the Ukrainian people, as well as what people around the world have donated.

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