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The Defense Department will send some 600 US soldiers to “a series of expanded US land force training activities” in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in response to recent Russian aggression in Ukraine, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby on Tuesday. “A company-sized contingent of paratroopers from the US Army Europe’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat team, Airborne, which is based in Vicenza, Italy, will arrive in Poland [April 23] to begin exercises with Polish troops,” said Kirby. He added, “Additional companies from the 173rd will move in the coming days to Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia for similar exercises.” The goal is to have a “persistent, rotational” US presence in the region, with “fresh troops” rotating in once these exercises conclude, said Kirby. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the decision to bolster US presence near Ukraine after consulting with Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Kirby. Breedlove recently cautioned that the “armed masked men” operating in Ukraine are, in fact, Russian forces conducting a “well planned and organized” military operation directed by Russia. Earlier this month, he said Russia had built up enough forces along the Ukrainian border to quickly and successfully carry out an “incursion.” (Kirby transcript.)