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Jul 24, 5:39 PM EDT

US to expand Ukraine military training



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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. is planning to expand its training of Ukrainian security forces with small-unit exercises for personnel from Kiev's Defense Ministry, the Obama administration said Friday.

The State Department announced that the training would begin this fall in western Ukraine. It said the program is similar to training now being provided to the Ukrainian National Guard.

Spokesman Mark Toner said the new program would increase to more than $244 million the amount of U.S. security assistance provided to Ukraine since last year when conflict between Kiev and Russian-backed separatists escalated in the east of the country.

Vice President Joe Biden discussed U.S. security assistance and other topics in a call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday.

Both agreed that Russia and Russian-backed separatists have failed to comply with the first steps of an agreement reached in February calling for a cease-fire and a pullback of heavy weapons, according to a White House statement.

The White House said Biden and Poroshenko also talked about Ukraine's efforts to combat corruption and the urgency of seeking justice in the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17, which was shot down over Ukraine just over a year ago.

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