A military exercise involving Ukrainian and U.S. forces, along with troops from more than a dozen other countries, opened Monday in western Ukraine, as fighting between government troops and Russia-backed rebels escalated in eastern Ukraine, despite a cease-fire.
About 1,800 troops from 18 countries (Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Turkey and the U.S.), most NATO members or partners, are participating in the Rapid Trident 2015 exercise, which is being held in the Lviv region near Ukraine's border with Poland.
Russia's Foreign Ministry released a statement Monday denouncing the exercise, calling it a "clear demonstration" of NATO's "unconditional support of the Kyiv authorities' policies in southeastern Ukraine, as a result of which civilians continue to die in region every day."
The U.S. Army in Europe's website describes Rapid Trident as "a regional command post exercise and field training exercise focused on peacekeeping and stability operations."
It also says the exercise "comes at the explicit request of the Ukrainian government and military."
The website of Ukraine's Defense Ministry says the aim of this year's drill is "to train headquarters and units of the multinational brigade to conduct stabilization actions in the framework of defense operations in operative command using the experience of the anti-terrorist operation in eastern Ukraine."
Rapid Trident will last two weeks.
The exercise comes amid an upsurge in violence in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian presidential administration spokesman Andriy Lysenko says that five Ukrainian servicemen were wounded in the Donetsk region during the past 24 hours.
On Sunday, Ukraine's military and pro-Russian rebels accused each other of shelling residential districts in and around the rebel-held city of Donetsk, after police reported at least four civilians were killed during the prior 24 hours.