US army head meets with Ukrainian counterpart

The meeting took place in the context of the international community’s increased military support for Ukraine, including the expansion of the United States’ training of Ukrainian troops.

The top US military officer, Army General Mark Milley, arrived at a site near the Ukraine-Poland border on Tuesday and spoke face-to-face with his Ukrainian counterpart for the first time – an emphatic meeting. growing relationship between the militaries of the two countries and coming. at a crucial time when Russia’s war with Ukraine is almost a year old.

Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met for several hours with the commander of the Ukrainian army, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, at an undisclosed location in southeastern Poland. The two leaders have regularly talked about Ukraine’s military needs and the state of war over the past year but have never met.

The meeting took place in the context of the international community’s increased military support for Ukraine, including the supply of Patriot air defense missile systems by the United States and the European Union, and the supply of air defense systems and weapons systems. other gas. and other countries.

It also marked a pivotal moment in the war. Ukraine’s military faces heavy fighting in the eastern Donetsk province, where Russian forces – backed by thousands of private contractors of the Wagner Corporation – have managed to turn the tide after a series of defeats on the ground. battlefield in recent months.

Army Colonel Dave Butler, a spokesman for Milley, told two reporters traveling with the president that the two generals felt it was important to meet in person. The reporters did not accompany Milley to the meeting, and under conditions set by the military, they agreed not to identify the military base in southeastern Poland where they were stationed.

“These guys have been talking very often for about a year now and they’ve come to understand each other,” Butler said. “They talked in detail about the defense that Ukraine is trying to make against Russian aggression. And the important thing is — when you have two military experts looking into each other’s eyes and talking about very, very important topics, there’s a difference.”

Butler said there had been some hope that Zaluzhnyi would travel to Brussels for a meeting of NATO and other defense ministers this week, but when it became clear on Monday that was not going to happen. , they quickly decided to meet in Poland, near the border.

While a number of US civilian leaders have traveled to Ukraine, the Biden administration has made it clear that no uniformed military service members will travel to Ukraine except those with contact with the embassy in Kiev. . Butler said only a small group – Milley and six of his senior staff – traveled by car to the meeting.

He said the meeting would allow Milley to convey Zaluzhnyi’s concerns and information to other military leaders during the NATO leaders’ meeting. Milley will be able to “describe tactical and operational conditions on the battlefield and what the military needs for that, and the way he does that is by understanding it himself but also by talk regularly with Zaluzhnyi.”

Milley will also be able to describe the new training of Ukrainian forces that the US is carrying out at the Grafenwoehr training ground in Germany. The president, who got his first look at the new combined weapons manual, called during a nearly two-hour visit there on Monday, has said it will better prepare the Ukrainian military to launch an attack or counter any increase in Russian attacks.

More than 600 Ukrainian soldiers began extensive training at the camp just a day before Milley’s arrival.

Milley and Zaluzhnyi’s meeting kicks off a series of high-level meetings of military and defense leaders this week. Milley and other defense chiefs will meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, then the so-called Ukraine Contact Group will gather at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Thursday and Friday. That group includes about 50 top defense officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and they work to coordinate military contributions to Ukraine.

The meetings are expected to focus on Ukraine’s ongoing and future military needs as the harsh terrain of the winter months turns into muddy roads and fields in the spring.

After several months of losing the territory it had captured, Russia in recent days claimed it had control of the small salt mining town of Soledar. Ukraine insists that its troops are still fighting, but if Moscow’s troops take control of Soledar, it will allow them to move closer to the larger city of Bakhmut, where fighting has raged for several years. many months.

And in a series of air strikes over the weekend, Russia hit Kyiv, the city of Kharkiv to the northeast and the city of Dnipro to the southeast, where the death toll in an apartment building rose to 44.

Western analysts point to signs that the Kremlin is preparing for a protracted war and say the Russian military command is preparing for an expanded mobilization effort. US army head meets with Ukrainian counterpart

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