A small group of Ukrainian soldiers who were in the United States before the Russian invasion of Ukraine are being trained in the use of the Switchblade killer drones that Washington provides to Kyiv, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
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“A very small number of Ukrainian soldiers … were already in the United States and had been there since the fall, long before the invasion, for training purposes,” the porter told reporters. spokesman of the United States Department of Defense, John Kirby.
“We took advantage of the fact that they were still in the country to give them a few days of training in the use of Switchblades,” he added, noting that when they returned to their country, they could “train other Ukrainian soldiers”.
According to a senior Pentagon official who requested anonymity, it is a “small number” of Ukrainian soldiers, “less than a dozen”. “They should return to Ukraine soon,” he added.
The day before, during a hearing in Congress, Defense Minister Lloyd Austin had indicated that the United States was training Ukrainian soldiers outside Ukraine in the handling of the weapons they were supplied with.
“Some are trained here in the United States,” added the Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, without further details.
US President Joe Biden announced on March 16 the dispatch of 100 of these so-called “kamikaze” drones which explode on contact with the target and whose smaller model can destroy light armored vehicles, the larger model being able to pierce the heavy tank armor.
“They arrived at the Ukrainian border earlier this week,” Kirby said, hinting that additional drones could be part of an upcoming round of military aid.
“They will enter Ukraine very soon, if they haven’t already,” he added.
Washington also announced on Tuesday that it would release additional military aid to Ukraine of up to $100 million in the form of Javelin anti-tank systems, which have become the weapon of choice for Ukrainian soldiers against the Russian army.
Asked about the usefulness of new Javelins, thousands of which the Ukrainians have already received as they clamor for better air defence, the Pentagon spokesman noted that these shoulder-portable missile launchers are designed to pierce tank armor, but “that doesn’t mean you can’t use them on other vehicles and even stationary targets if necessary.”
On the ground, the Russian forces which had been deployed in the Kyiv region have left Ukraine, the senior American official also said on Wednesday. “We believe they have completely withdrawn from Kyiv and Cherniguiv,” he said.
Russian bombardment intensified on the south and east, where Russia announced that it intended to focus its efforts, but “we have not seen a tangible influx of forces or resources in the Donbass,” he noted.