Washington, DC – Secretary Austin spoke via videoconference this morning to a small number of Ukrainian forces who are returning to Ukraine today from the United States, said Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.
These Ukrainian troops were participating in a pre-scheduled professional military education program at the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS) in Biloxi, Miss. when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. NAVSCIATTS is a Security Cooperation school operating under United States Special Operations Command in support of Foreign Security Assistance and Geographic Combatant Commanders’ Theater Security Cooperation priorities.
“The Secretary thanked them for their service and for their courage, noting the skill with which the Ukrainian Armed Forces are fighting Russia’s unprovoked invasion. And he pledged continued US support for providing and coordinating additional security assistance,” said Kirby.
The Ukrainians were in the United States as part of the Defense Department’s long history of hosting Ukrainian service members for training and education. The Ukrainian forces received training on patrol craft operations, communications, and maintenance while at NASVSCIATTS.
Since the conclusion of the NAVSCIATTS course in early March, the US military provided the group additional advanced tactical training and training on the systems the United States has provided to Ukraine, including on the Switchblade UAV. “We took the opportunity to … give them a couple of days’ worth of training on the Switchblade so that they can go back, and they will be going back soon, back home, to train others in the Ukrainian military,” Kirby said.
Today was the group’s last day in the United States. They spoke to Secretary Austin from the U.S. Navy’s base at Little Creek, VA., where they were completing additional advanced tactical training.
On April 5, the Biden Administration authorized an additional Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to an additional $100 million to meet an urgent Ukrainian need for additional Javelin anti-armor systems, which the United States has been providing to Ukraine and they have been using so effectively to defend their country. The US has already shipped 100 Switchblade unmanned systems to the Ukrainians.
This is the sixth drawdown of equipment from Department of Defense inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.
Combined with $300 million in military assistance announced by the Department April 1, this brings the total US security assistance commitment to Ukraine to more than $2.4 billion since the beginning of the Biden Administration and more than $1.7 billion since the beginning of Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked invasion on February 24.
Speaking on background, a senior defense official told reporters that since the failure of the Kyiv campaign, Russian units are moving to the east and beginning to feed them into the fight for the Donbas. “This will be a knife fight,” the official said. “This could be very bloody and very ugly.” The official noted that one of the reasons why the president signed out another $100 million in Javelins just the other night was because we know how important the Javelins are going to be in this knife fight that’s about to occur in the Donbas.
“The United States, along with our Allies and partners, will continue to work closely with our Ukrainian partners to evaluate their specific requirements to ensure our assistance meets Ukraine’s highest priority needs as they courageously defend their country,” said Kirby.