US sending 200 troops for drills in Ukraine: Pentagon

Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Battalion train volunteers in the southeastern city of Mariupol, on September 1, 2014 (AFP Photo/Anatoliy Boyko) (AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - The United States will send about 200 troops to take part in a US-led annual exercise in Ukraine later this month, the Pentagon said Wednesday, in a show of solidarity with Kiev.

The presence of 200 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade will mark the first deployment of US ground troops to Ukraine since the Kiev government's conflict with pro-Russia separatists erupted earlier this year.

Dubbed "Rapid Trident," the yearly exercise was set for September 13-26 and will involve more than a dozen countries, including "approximately 200 personnel" from the US military, spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said.

"It's a peacekeeping exercise," said Warren, and would focus in part on countering homemade bombs.

The drill was due to be held in Yavoriv, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) from Lviv in western Ukraine.

US naval forces also were due to take part in a separate maritime exercise starting next week in the Black Sea which will involve forces from Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia and Romania, officials said.

Two vessels from a NATO maritime group will also participate.

Washington is sending the USS Ross, a guided missile destroyer, to join the naval drill, dubbed "Sea Breeze," which runs from Monday to Wednesday. About 280 US sailors were due to take part.

The aim of the exercise was "to improve interoperability while promoting regional stability and security" among allies and partners, spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Vanessa Hillman said.

With Russia's intervention in Ukraine raising alarm in Eastern Europe and beyond, the United States has held a series of high-profile military exercises in the region in a bid to reassure anxious allies on NATO's eastern border.

Ukraine, facing a separatist rebellion and suspected Russian military operations in its east, has asked for US military aid but Washington has declined so far to provide weapons to the Kiev government.