US to train Ukrainian troops on howitzer use against Russia

Long-range cannon expected to play a key role in coming Russian offensive on Donbas

A member of the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps fires a howitzer in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region last month. Reuters
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The US military will soon begin training Ukrainian artillery experts on American howitzer cannon for use in combat against Russia in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, a Pentagon official said on Monday.

US President Joe Biden last week authorised an $800 million package of security assistance for Ukraine that included 18 howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds.

Training for the 155-millimetre howitzers will take place outside Ukraine and will involve Ukrainian troops already familiar with artillery, who can instruct others back in the country, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

"We believe we'll be able to begin a process of training Ukrainian armed forces on the howitzers that will be shortly heading over," Mr Kirby said.

"It'll be more of a 'train-the-trainers' kind of environment."

Artillery, or "long-range fire" as it is known in the military, is likely to play a key role in Donbas in what is expected to be Russia's next major offensive.

The terrain in the country's agricultural heartland is wide open, unlike the urban environment in other parts of the conflict, meaning Russia and Ukraine could slog it out over longer distances suited to artillery use.

"The terrain lends itself to the use of artillery, to long-range fires," Mr Kirby said.

"The Russians also believe the same thing, because we're seeing them move artillery units into the Donbas as well.

"And so we want to give the Ukrainians every bit of advantage that we can. They specifically asked for artillery support and we answered that."

Updated: April 18, 2022, 9:57 PM