Ukraine Readies Marines, Warship, Aircraft For Libyan Deployment

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian marines, aircraft and a warship were preparing for deployment to Libya on Tuesday to aid in the evacuation of Ukrainian nationals and to provide humanitarian assistance, officials said.

The Kostiantyn Olshansky warship.

The forces could arrive in a week, officials said. They provided no details about the nature or scope of their mission.

The landing ship Kostiantyn Olshansky was taking on board infantry and supplies in the Black Sea port Sevastopol, and a pre-departure inspection of troops and equipment was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, officials at Ukraine's Ministry of Defence said.

The Olshansky could reach Libyan waters within a week via a route passing the Bosphorus and Dardenelles straits, said Oleksander Dikusar, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

A Ukraine air force Il-76 cargo jet and An-26 were also loading humanitarian supplies and would be sent to an international relief effort to Libya in coming days, Defence Ministry officials said.

President Viktor Yanukovych on Monday ordered Ukraine's military to ready forces for travel to Libya in response to a Friday request from the UN Security Council for participation in a humanitarian aid operation in the region, Dikusar said.

The Ukrainan forces are not intended to participate in combat operations, officials said. Rather, their main mission will be the evacuation of Ukrainian nationals and others wanting to leave Libya.

Some 500 Ukrainian nationals are believed to be in Libya, the Foreign Ministry estimates.

The Kostiantyn Olshansky is a warship, but it is designed primarily for the transport of troops and equipment directly to or from a beach without the need for a conventional port.

Ukraine is an active participant in international military operations. Since 2000, it has deployed military forces to Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq.

Source: DPA