Chief of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe Welcomed in Kyiv amid Russia’s Drawdown on Ukraine’s Border

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Maj. Gen. David Tabor, right, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe, receives a weapons briefing at the 142nd Training Center near Kyiv, Ukraine, April 28, 2021
Maj. Gen. David Tabor, right, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe, receives a weapons briefing at the 142nd Training Center near Kyiv, Ukraine, April 28, 2021

The head of U.S. special operations in Europe met with troops this week in Ukraine, marking the two-star general’s first official visit to a country where a recent Russian military buildup sparked U.S. threat alerts

Maj. Gen. David Tabor, who leads U.S. Special Operations Command Europe, said the U.S. is looking for ways to expand training efforts in Ukraine.

“U.S. forces in Europe remain committed to collective defense cooperative security alongside European allies and partners,” Tabor said in a statement Wednesday. “By seeking out new training opportunities, we ensure that U.S., allied and partner forces maintain the ability to meet and defeat any number of threats.”

Read more: US Congressional committee passes bill to boost military support for Ukraine

Tabor met with U.S. and Ukrainian service members at the 142nd Training Center, which serves as a hub for the country’s elite forces.

In recent years, U.S. special operators have worked closely with their Ukrainian counterparts to improve their crisis response capabilities. In February 2020, the U.S. gave $1.5 million for improvements at the training site, located not far from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

Tabor’s meeting in Ukraine was intended to serve as a demonstration of the “continued commitment to building the capacity of Ukraine’s forces to defend more effectively against Russian aggression,” SOCEUR said in a statement.

Tabor’s visit came after Russia’s decision last week to reduce the number of forces it had built up around Ukraine.

The situation, which Western officials said involved more than 100,000 Russian troops, heightened concerns among allies that Russia was poised to invade.

Moscow said its troops were taking part in training drills. It still isn’t clear how many forces or how much gear was left behind in the region by the Russian military.

The rapid troop buildup was the largest force assembled around the country since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Russia also maintains a large naval presence off the coast of Ukraine, and Moscow said it would block until October the passage into the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea, through the Kerch Strait, for all foreign naval vessels, including Ukraine’s. The area has been a flashpoint in the past between Russian and Ukrainian naval vessels.

The Russian naval ship “Azov” crosses under the new Kerch Strait Bridge while patrolling the Sea of Azov

The 142nd Training Center was established with the purpose of continuing Ukraine's long-term military reform and increased professionalism, while helping improve internal defense capabilities and training capacity. Courses of instruction include advanced land navigation, marksmanship, building leadership capabilities in risk management and troop leading procedures. Special Operations Command Europe provides SOF training, advisement and training to assist in this effort, enabling Ukrainian Special Operations Forces.

Read more: Russia effectively blocking entrance to Sea of Azov
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