U. S. troops will begin training regular Ukrainian military forces later this year in an expansion of their current mission, which so far has been limited to instructing Interior Ministry National Guard units, the State Department said on Friday. "This training is part of our long-running defense cooperation with Ukraine and is taking place at the invitation of the Ukraine government. This additional program brings our total security assistance committed to Ukraine since 2014 to over $244 million," State Department Mark Toner said, Reuters reported. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, head of U.S. Army forces in Europe, said earlier this month that U.S. officials were discussing expanding the military training to include regular Ukrainian troops under the Defense Ministry. The training is part of U.S. efforts to strengthen Ukraine's security following Russia's seizure of the Crimea last year and the spread of separatist unrest in eastern, Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine. Hodges said officials were looking at training army and special operations troops, likely focusing on skills like tactics and combat medicine. He said the expanded training mission did not mean the administration would be providing Ukraine with lethal arms.