A top U.S. commander will meet Ukrainian officials this week to discuss the military relationship between the two countries. The trip comes amid increased fighting in East Ukraine as pro-Russian rebels, possibly with the help of Russian troops, and Ukraine’s military contest the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.
Lt. Gen. Frederick Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, will meet high-level Ukrainian officials to discuss upcoming military exercises and the U.S.-led training and reformation of the Ukrainian National Guard, according to Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren.
The visit was confirmed by Ukrainian officials, who also said a Ukrainian delegation would be attending a NATO Military Committee meeting in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday. The recent increase in fighting across East Ukraine will be discussed by the committee, along with general global security issues, according to a NATO report.
It’s also likely the heavy fighting between rebel forces and the Ukrainian military at the Donetsk airport will be a topic of discussion.
A ceasefire known as the Minsk agreement was signed by Russia and Ukraine in September but has been repeatedly breached since, in a conflict that began in April 2014 and has claimed 5,000 lives. A negotiation meeting between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany was meant to take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, earlier this month, but the parties called it off after agreeing that not enough progress had been made to warrant the meeting just yet.
Last month, Ukraine decided to abandon its nonaligned status, a move that may constitute a first step in a process leading to the country's membership in NATO, which would anger Russia.