U.S. European Command's deputy commander said Monday that a newly arrived armored brigade is ready to face any threat in Europe, just as fighting resumed in Ukraine.
"These Iron Soldiers of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team send a clear signal of our commitment as they round out our joint team's capability in a very significant way," said Lt. Gen. Tim Ray, speaking in Poland at a Jan. 30 ceremony for the 3rd ABCT, according to a EUCOM press release.
"The events in 2014 and the trans-Atlantic declarations from the Wales and Warsaw Summits demonstrate the indivisibility and unity of the alliance in light of Russia's invasion into Ukraine. These events forged a commitment, and a plan, to build our defense and deterrence posture in Europe," Ray said.
Meanwhile, fighting between government troops and Russia-backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine escalated, killing at least eight people late Monday and early Tuesday, injuring dozens and briefly trapping more than 200 coal miners underground, ABC News reported.
Oleksandr Turchynov, chairman of the Ukrainian Security and Defense Council, said Tuesday that heavy shelling around Avdiivka killed at least three government troops and injured 24 more.
The press office of the Ukrainian government's operation in the east reported an unspecified number of civilian casualties. It also said the rebels turned down the government's offer for a ceasefire to allow the removal of the dead and wounded, according to ABC News.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday accused the Ukrainian government of provoking the crisis. The Kremlin has "reliable information" that Ukrainian volunteer battalions crossed the front line Monday night and tried to capture rebel territory, according to ABC News.
Operation Atlantic Resolve was designed to reassure NATO allies and partners in the region after Russia invaded Ukraine.
The 3rd ABCT is just one aspect of America's commitment to the region, Ray said. It is a "key part of our joint land, naval, air, space and cyberspace team. Be assured, the full weight of the U.S. military stands behind these sentinels of freedom," Ray said.
Deployed from Fort Carson, Colorado, the 3rd ABCT's 3,500 soldiers and 2,000 vehicles join a recently increased land, sea and air presence in the region.
The arrival of the 3rd ABCT starts back-to-back rotations of U.S. troops and equipment in the region. The ABCT will be dispersed across seven locations in Eastern Europe for training and exercises with European allies, Ray said.
These forces represent one element of America's commitment to European security, and it is ready to defend that security if called upon, he said, adding that the troops will train with allies and partners, ultimately leading to greater interoperability.
"Our commitment to defense is rock-solid. And we must maintain the territorial integrity of our alliance and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous, and at peace," Ray said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.