Up to 500 members of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry will be deployed to the Ukraine beginning early next year to train soldiers there, The Frontier has learned.
Lt. Col Lindy White, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma National Guard, said plans call for about 250 members of the 45th Infantry Combat Brigade to spend about 60 days training for the mission and then be deployed to Ukraine.
"In the next month or two, they will deploy to an active duty post where they will finish training," White said.
The troops will provide training support for Ukrainian armed forces as part of the U.S. security cooperation agreement, White said.
The unit will spend about six months in the region and then return home. It will be replaced by a second group of about 250 soldiers from the 45th Infantry, which is also scheduled to spend about six months taking part in the training mission, White said.
Conflict in the region flared in 2014, when Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, rejected a proposal that would have brought the country closer to the European Union. The former Soviet republic, which is about the size of Texas, gained its independence in 1991.
After Russia annexed Crimea, the conflict between Russian-backed separatists and government forces grew wider. Between April 2014 and July 2016, the UN Human Rights Office reported 9,553 soldiers and civilians were killed in the region.
Monday, a prominent commander of the Russian-backed separatists was killed by a bomb, just days ahead of a multinational summit to discuss ways to quell the violence, the New York Times reported.
Leaders from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are expected to attend the meeting Wednesday.
Our partner The Frontier is following this story and will have more on its website.