A total of 1,300 troops from 15 nations, either active NATO members or would-be members, have come together for a military exercise in western Ukraine – even as the fragile truce in the east of the country barely holds.
The exercise, code-named “Rapid Trident” has been an annual event since 2006, and has been organized by the Germany-based US European Command (EUCOM). It was initially planned to have this year’s drills in mid-July, but they were postponed because of heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine.
This year’s exercise will involve command post exercises, patrolling, counter-IED training and a field training exercise,” the EUCOM Public Affairs Office said in a statement. It adds that “no live fire exercises” have been scheduled for the drills.
The exercise is being conducted near Yavoriv, 60 kilometers from the city of Lvov in north-western Ukraine, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center (IPSC).
The US earlier pledged to send 200 troops to take part in the exercise.
Earlier in September, Ukrainian and American naval forces held joint maritime drills in the northwestern part of the Black Sea.
The Russian Black Sea fleet simultaneously tested its new-generation Bastion coastal defense system, saying the test was pre-scheduled and was not a response to the US-Ukraine drills in the Black Sea.
Moscow has been particularly sensitive about NATO’s increased activity in Eastern Europe and has been thinking of reviewing its military doctrine due to this new situation.
Eastern Ukraine has meanwhile seen the fragile ceasefire there being put to a serious test on Sunday, when the city of Donetsk witnessed some heavy shelling.
A crew from RT’s video agency Ruptly working on the outskirts of Donetsk witnessed an episode when a family was forced to run for shelter to escape shelling.
A group of OSCE observers also came under fire near Donetsk the same day.
Ukrainian troops and the anti-government forces have blamed each other for the ceasefire violations.