American and Ukrainian paratroopers train in this file photo from a previous Rapid Trident exercise. This year's exercise has been delayed. (Staff Sgt. Brendan Stephens/Army)
A U.S. Army exercise planned in Ukraine this summer has been postponed, a spokesman for U.S. European Command said.
“Exercise Rapid Trident 14, originally planned for July in Ukraine, will be moved to later in the year,” Air Force Lt. Col. David Westover Jr. said in an email. “Exact dates and participants are to be determined as planning continues.”
The exercise had been expected to take place near L’viv, Ukraine, and involve units from the U.S., Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom.
“Rapid Trident is an annual Ukrainian-led, U.S. Army Europe-supported, situational training exercise and battalion field training exercise designed to train a U.S.-Ukrainian combined battalion headquarters with a peace support operations scenario,” Westover said.
Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, another command spokesman, provided a statement to explain the delay:
“It was moved because during the initial planning phase, which occurs months in advance, the legitimate government of Ukraine was beginning to deal with the start of Russian-backed separatists trying to tear apart their country, which rightfully meant their defense forces were focused elsewhere.”
The security situation in Ukraine has become more tense ahead of that country’s May 25 presidential elections. On Thursday, at least 11 Ukrainian troops died in fighting with pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, thousands of Russian troops remain massed on Ukraine’s border. U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, head of EUCOM and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, took to social media on Thursday to call for Russian forces to pull back.
“Verified and complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukraine border will do much to deescalate the situation,” Breedlove tweeted.