In 1991, the Ukrainian army numbered around 700,000 troops; by 1996, there were approximately 300,000. In February 2014, on the eve of the Crimean annexation, there were approximately 150,000 in the army, navy, and air force, but be one estimate only 5,000 were battle ready. At the moment of crisis, entire brigades simply melted away. By August 2014, Volunteers, many spurred on by a rise in patriotism in the wake of the Maidan protests, have also helped to boost the armed forces’ numbers. The National Guard has integrated former members from Maidan’s self-defense forces into its ranks.
At the end of 2015, the total number of Armed Forces personnel was 250,000 people, including military personnel – 204,000 people and civilian personnel of the Armed Forces – 46,000 people. However, the decrees of the President of Ukraine on mobilization and the relevant laws of Ukraine envisage increasing the number of soldiers in a special period. The armed forces had successfully transformed themselves from the 6,000 combat-ready troops available in mid-2014 to a powerful, battle-hardened army.
By the end of 2014 the strength of Ukrainian Armed Forces grew from 130,000 to 232,000. Ukraine's military struggled with both recruitment and quality of personnel, as four [six?] waves of mobilization in 2014 and 2015 succeeded in recruiting what an advisor to the Ukrainian President called "alcoholics and dodgers, drug addicts and morons." After increasing its defense budget to about $6 billion, Ukraine created a standing army of 250,000 soldiers -- up from only 5,000 to 6,000 combat-ready troops in April 2014. That made it among the largest armies in Europe [third largest, after Turkey with 400,000 troops and Finland with 280,000 troops, including reserves - Greece, the UK and Italy each have about 120,000, while Germany and France trail with 105,000 soldiers].
The seventh wave of mobilization in Ukraine was not planned, but it may be declared in case of a serious deterioration of the situation in Donbas. This was announced 25 July 2015 by spokesperson for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Vladyslav Selezniov. Selezniov noted that three waves of mobilization were scheduled for 2015, the fourth, the fifth and the sixth, which is ongoing now. The next wave is not reported on officially, but its possibility is not ruled out.
"The whole situation depends on the developments in the east of the country. We can assume it is possible if there is an extremely serious aggravation of the situation. But as for now, we have no plans to conduct another wave of mobilization this year," the representative of the General Staff said.
Ukraine’s parliament passed a law 05 February 2015 which authorizes commanding officers to use physical force against army defectors. It comes as the latest military draft has seen a lack of enthusiasm on the part of potential soldiers. Ukraine’s parliament voted with 260 MPs in favor - only 226 votes were needed to pass the law. The new article 22(1) added to the charter regulating service in the armed forces of Ukraine states that commanders “have the right to personally use physical force, special means, and weapons when in combat” against soldiers who commit “criminal acts.”
Under criminal acts the law listed “disobedience, resistance or threat to use force against the commander, voluntary abandonment of military positions and certain locations of military units in areas of combat missions.” An explanatory note to the document said that currently there are mass violations of military discipline, in particular, desertion from units and drinking alcohol, as well failure to execute commanders’ orders.
More than 10,000 cases of desertion had been registered in the Ukrainian Army since the outbreak of the Donbass war in April 2014, Ukrainian Vesti reported. In 2014 the army suffered heavy desertion and nearly 30 percent of the servicemen called up in the first wave of mobilization (March 17) abandoned their positions, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said.
The Ukrainian parliament on 15 January 2015 expanded the upper limit of compulsory military draft age for male citizens from 25 to 27 years, with recruits serving in the military for 1.5 years. The draft legislation was supported by 256 Verkhovha Rada lawmakers, with 226 votes necessary for approval. The adopted law stipulates that 'Ukrainian male citizens who are physically qualified for military service, over 18 years old and older, but who have not reached the age of 27, and who have no right for exemption from military service' will be conscripted.
Ukraine’s parliament endorsed a presidential decree on mobilization in 2015 on 15 January 2015. President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree on a new round of military mobilization a day earlier. The fourth mobilization began on January 20, and two more would be held in April and June. If need be, about 104,000 men may be called up to serve in the armed forces. Those eligible for mobilization are primarily reserve servicemen aged from 25 to 60. They are supposed to get a month of training before they actually go to the battlegrounds in eastern Ukraine.
The conditions of mobilization in 2015 deteriorated significantly, and the effectiveness of the state to mobilize military service decreased significantly. State regional and district administration and military commissariat of the General Staff are responsible for the mobilization. But by early 2015 in most regions of Ukraine the President had not appointed the order of 50% of the heads of district and regional administrations. General Staff simply failed to create a system of accounting recruits or of accounting reserve military service. Therefore, in the military enlistment offices all the records are on paper.
Ukraine’s mobilization campaign, the fourth since the armed coup in Kiev brought to power the current government in February 2014, reportedly stalled because potential recruits dodged conscription officials. Hundreds of Ukrainian men chose to flee the country rather than be enrolled. Presidential adviser Yuri Biryukov said January 27, 2015 "Over the past 30 days the state border in Chernivtsi region crossed 17% of total military service area. From unofficial sources that hostels and motels in the border areas of neighboring Romania completely filled by those who evade conscription". But many regions have reported no such problems.
Citizens of Ukraine military of conscription age traveling abroad must show a document issued by a military commissariat. Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak made the statement on 31 January 2015. "All the recruits that were called into the army during mobilization, based on the provisions, should provide the document (issued by a military commissariat -ed.) for traveling abroad. It's like an auxiliary measure to determine the reason for traveling abroad and so on," he said. According to the official, the concept was developed jointly by Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and the General Staff.
The military commissioners, appointed by the General Staff, unfortunately were massively infected with corruption and incompetence. Law enforcement agencies began to systematically deal with the military commissar bribery problems that that break mobilization. Mobilization can not answer who and where to call, because in addition to the excessive number of non-combat units, there is no differentiated approach to the quality and selection of personnel. Motivated professional soldiers are forced to fight in some departments with unprofessional and less motivated troops, and even direct military discipline violators who are drunken and rowdy.
Lack of combat training during the war demoralizes even the most motivated and patriotic soldiers. A warrior does not panic when he can adequately assess what is happening and is able to construct a course of action in the most common combat situations. Every soldier must know maneuver - then the soldiers do not panic and can take the initiative to show stress. Combat training is a complete failure of the General Staff.
Salary for "contractor" was established in 2012 and at that time the army helped attract many motivated citizens. Since then, much changed - inflation and the dollar, but the amount of payment remained unchanged. Ukraine needed to create a professional core in the army, and above all in shock combat units. To do this, the minimum wage should be a soldier, even without sending them to the area ATO about 800-1000 dollars, Sergeant - 1200-1500, officer - 2000-2500 dollars. This rate of pay will be competitive with the private sector and will be a great stimulus to the professionalization of the army. People who want to associate with an army of his life, should get this opportunity and be confident in the future.
Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said 09 January 2015 that it was planned to increase the strength of army personnel from 232,000 to 250,000 people, as well as to create six mechanized brigades, a mountain infantry regiment, three artillery brigades and two army aviation brigades.
The strength of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is to be increased to 250,000 people in 2015. Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said this in the Verkhovna Rada on 12 December 2014. "The strength of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has increased. Last year we had 130,000 people and now we have 232,000. It is planned to bring the number of Ukrainian Armed Forces servicemen to 250,000," Poltorak said.
The Ukrainian authorities conducted three waves of army mobilization in connection with the 2014 conflict in the country's South-East. In 2014 several waves of mobilization were conducted in Ukraine, with a focus on reservists. Officers under 45 and soldiers under 40 were called up. However, the government confirmed the problem of military service evasion.
According the announcement of Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) Oleksandr Turchynov on 20 December 2014, recruits would serve for a year and a half and the minimum age limit would be raised from 18 to 20. On the same day, President Poroshenko proposed that soldiers doing compulsory service not be sent to combat zones in southeastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree authorizing a new wave of mobilization in the crisis-hit country on 14 January 2015. "I am certain that the Ukrainian people will support this decision and the mobilization will be carried out successfully," Poroshenko said. According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, the mobilization was expected to begin on January 20, and will be held in three stages. Ukraine planned to bolster its military by calling up some 50,000 people during the new wave of mobilization.
"We are operating under the assumption that Ukraine should become a military state," Dmytro Shimkiv, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, said 29 September 2014 at a public debate on Strategy 2020 in Kiev. The reforms envisioned an increase in the number of servicemen in Ukraine from 2.8 people to 7 people per 1,000 people, he said. Shimkiv also said the defense and national security reform was a key reform envisioned by the program Strategy 2020.
Demobilization of conscripts in Ukraine would be carried out only after reaching durable truce in the eastern parts of the country, President Petro Poroshenko stated in Kharkiv, Ukrinform said11 October 2014. "It is still impossible to demobilize under the conditions of de facto military operations. As soon as there is a sustainable ceasefire, as soon as the line of defense is built, as soon as our brigades, and it should be in the near future, are deployed in full combat defense order, we will be able to launch the steps on demobilization," the Ukrainian leader said.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine could return military conscription, acting Defense Minister Mykhailo Koval stated 26 April 2014. "The army will be professional - this is the future of the Armed Forces. But now the Armed Forces are not ready for this. Therefore we might have to return 21-23-years-old men for a while, and they will serve the state," he told reporters in Kyiv. According to Koval, the reckless policy of transition to contract service showed its negative sides, in particular, in Crimea. "If there were conscripts there [in military units], then the situation might be different," the minister said. In addition, the minister said the Armed Forces of Ukraine have not created a good base for training and life-support of contract soldiers.
Ukraine's acting President Olexander Turchynov reinstated military conscription to deal with deteriorating security in the east of the country. Turchynov signed the decree on 01 May 2014, the same day pro-Russian militants seized the regional prosecutor’s office in the eastern city of Donetsk. The decree reinstates the draft for non-exempt Ukrainian men between 18 and 25 years old and cites what it describes as "the further aggravation of the socio-politcal situation" in eastern and southern Ukraine, as well as "blatant aggression" by "illegal" armed pro-Russian groups. The move came a day after Turchynov said that his government was "helpless" to quell the growing pro-Russian separatist movement in two eastern regions and could not control its own troops.
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine took a decision to bring back a regular military service, NSDC Deputy Secretary Mykhailo Koval reported 28 August 2014. "The council decided from the beginning of this autumn to restore conscription to the Armed Forces of Ukraine," he said at a briefing after the NSDC meeting. Koval said that conscript for a regular term won't be involved into the military tasks in the anti-terrorist operation's zone.
On 02 September 2014 President Petro Poroshenko signed a law regulating the procedure for the military recruitment of personnel on contracts and simplifying the conscription procedure. The documents, in particular, regulate legislation in terms of the transition of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to staffing on a contract basis, as well as simplify the procedure and reduce the time required for the conscription of citizens for military service "in the event of a crisis situation endangering Ukraine's national security, the decision to conduct mobilization and (or) the introduction of the legal regime of martial law."
Ukraine established its own military forces of about 780,000 from the troops and equipment inherited from the former Soviet Union. By 2000 it had reduced this figure to about 500,000 from the troops and equipment inherited from the former Soviet Union. At that time it aimed to reduce the force to between 250,000-300,000 by the end of the decade; considerable downsizing already had taken place. By 2003 it had reduced this figure to about 295,000 (plus 90,000 civilian workers in the Ministry of Defense), with the goal of further reductions to around 275,000 by 2005.
The availability of professionally trained staff with high moral values and professional qualities, who are motivated and able to effectively solve complex military and professional task, is an important factor in ensuring that the Armed Forces are capable of performing the allocated tasks. Upon gaining independence in 1991, Ukraine inherited the second largest armed forces in Europe, having 750,000 troops, most of them conscripts. Reduction of the Armed Forces was conducted according to the indices determined by the Law of Ukraine “On the numerical strength of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for 2007”. The reduction totalled 21,000 personnel, including 13,000 Service personnel. At the end of 2007, the total strength of the Armed Forces was 200,000 personnel, including 152,000 Service personnel.
Conscription was enshrined in Article 65 of the 1996 Constitution and was further regulated by the 1999 Law on Military Duty and Military Service. All men between the ages of 18 and 25 were liable for military service. Reservist obligations applied up to the age of 40, and up to the age of 60 for officers. Other sources place the reserve obligation at five years after active duty. The length of military service initially was 18 months, 24 months in the navy, and 12 months for those who have completed higher education. The Ministry of Defence announced that the length of service will be reduced to 12 months in 2005, but by 2014 it seemed it remained 18 months.
The year 2007 was the second year of implementation of the State Programme of Development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for 2006-2011, aimed at forming a modern and professional armed forces capable to perform missions in defence of sovereignty and inviolability of Ukraine as well as significantly contribute to international global and regional security. The bulk of efforts of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the General Staff (GS) were streamlined to professionalization of the Armed Forces, introduction of service in the military reserve, reaching optimal indices in the organization and strength of functional structures of the Armed Forces as well as their designated level of training.
Professionalization of the Armed Forces is a complex process that stipulates, primarily: contract personnel manning; provision for high-level training of the officer corps; creation of professional sergeants corps; proper level of forces training and their equipping with corresponding weapons and equipment; provision of welfare guarantees to Service personnel and their family. Despite the obstacles of insufficient competition and the image of professional military service in the national employment market the plans for contract personnel manning were met in 2006 (94%); and, in 2007 (101.8%).
The Armed Forces undertook the introduction of a personnel management system that would provide for: an individual approach in personnel policy; maximum reduction of subjectivity in making personnel-related decisions; and, efficient career management. The Requirements for a Service Position as well as the Register of Positions that Require Knowledge and Use of Foreign Languages were adopted. The main element of personnel management is the evaluation of officers’ performance, measuring their personal level and the level of readiness of their subordinate units to perform designated missions.
Since 2006, on the adoption of the Strategic Concept of Employment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine combat training has gained real content. In 2005-2007 the intensity and quality of forces training increased. MOD and GS retained the positive dynamics of the execution of the plans and its main indices within the funding volumes for combat training. Resources were concentrated on the conduct of comprehensive, combined exercises close to real-time scenarios “Reaction-2005”, “Clear Sky -2006”, “Artery-2007” in Ukraine.
Since 1 May 2007 the level of pay for different categories of Service personnel was raised by 25% to 145%; since 1 January 2008, by 12% to 15% (correspondingly, since 1 January 2008 pensions for retired Service personnel are to be re-calculated, their value to increase by 38% to 70%, depending on position and rank); the structure of pay was reorganized - the net weight of basic types of pay has increased 60% to 70% (from 20% in 2003); the negative ratio was cancelled in financial and social security support of Armed Forces Service personnel compared to other uniformed services of the State; and, the principles of transparency were introduced and strictly adhered to in registering and allocating housing.
During 2005-2007, 12,6 thousand apartments were built or acquired for Service personnel. However, the problem of housing remains the most urgent one, while its solution requires the combined efforts of central and local administrations. The procedure for providing housing for military personnel and their family was amended; it defines that in the case of absence of any Service lodging for contract Privates, Sergeants and Sergeant Majors who are single, they are to be accommodated free in the special fitted barracks, and married dormitories.
By the end of 2007, the number of Service personnel on contract in the ranks of Privates, Sergeants and Master Sergeants is 47% of the total. This is 9% higher than the previous year. A new version of the Law of Ukraine “On Military Duty and Military Service” (2006) was approved, determining more simplified procedures for enlistment and adding some more categories of citizens who may enter contract service.
In 2007 the Experiment on the transition of units of the Armed Forces to completely professional Armed Forces continued. The number of units and formations participating in the Experiment has increased from 4 to 15. At the end of the year, 9 of them were manned between 85% to 100% with contract Service personnel, and that enables them to realize fuller value from combat training.
At the end of 2011 the strength of the Armed Forces was 192,000 personnel, including 144,000 military personnel. The downsizing of the strength was recommenced after a long break, was carried out within the terms set by the legislation of Ukraine. In total, 8,000 appointments were cut, including 6,000 military posts. After the Parliament passed the Laws of Ukraine of «The Armed Forces of Ukraine’s Strength for 2011» and «The Armed Forces of Ukraine’s Strength for 2012»7 the Armed Forces returned to legal framework.
One of the most welcomed promises during the Yushchenko administration was an end to military conscription. However, the promise did not become reality under Yushchenko, and by 2010 the Yanukovych presidency made clear the issue was on the back burner until 2015. On Nov. 18, 2010, Colonel-General Hryhoriy Pedchenko, Chief of General Staff and Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine told a briefing in Kyiv the Ukrainian army would be fully contract no earlier than 2015. He went on to describe the current situation in which 51 percent of privates and non-commissioned officers are under contract with that number planned to increase to 70 percent by 2015. Pedchenko added that the General Staff is planning to increase the strength of ordinary troops, petty officers and noncommissioned officers employed under contract by 20,000 to 69,000 before the end of 2015.
Ukraine’s Armed Forces announced in July 2011 it would downsize to 160 thousand personnel by 2016. This figure included 130 thousand military personnel. Of these, 80-90% were expected to be contract personnel. The Armed Forces’ strength at the end of 2011 was 192 thousand personnel, including 144 thousand military. Only 58% of servicemen were on contract.
The non-governmental Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies (CACDS) published in April 2012 a defense policy report that examined a yet-unreleased Defense Ministry draft proposal for Armed Forces’ reform and development through 2017. According to the CACDS report, the Ministry is considering drastic force reductions, from the current 192,000 military and civilian personnel to 100,000 (85,000 military and 15,000 civilian) by the end of 2014 and 85,000 (70,000 military and 15,000 civilians) by the end of 2017. The draft reform concept also call for a complete transition from a conscription model to a professional contract-based force by 2017.
In 2012 the ruling Party of Regions promised to cancel conscription to the Armed Forces starting 1 January 2014. This promise is in the party's election program From the Stability to Welfare, intended for parliamentary elections scheduled 28 October 2012.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces were to be downsized almost 50 percent by 2017, General Staff chief Igor Nikolaenko said on 07 September 2012. Military personnel will be reduced from the current 193,000 to 100,000, Ukrainskiye Novosti news agency quoted him as saying. There will be no more personnel cuts after 2017. The country also plans to completely phase out the draft by that time. Ukraine had stated that it was working to strengthen civilian control of the military, professionalize its non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps, and reduce the number of personnel in the Armed Forces of Ukraine by the end of 2012 to 184,000 people, including 139,000 servicemen.
Ukraine would suspend mandatory conscription in 2013 as a step toward a transition to a fully professional army, the country’s Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedev said on 29 December 2012. “We are facing new formidable tasks next year,” Lebedev said in a New Year’s address to the Armed Forces personnel and veterans. “We will review the composition and the command structure of the Armed Forces, improve the system of military education, and suspend the conscription while making a transition to manning the army solely on a contract basis, as it is done today in the leading countries of the world,” he said.
Lebedev, who was appointed defense minister on December 24, added that the Ukrainian government would continue to prioritize the equipment of the Armed Forces with new and modernized weaponry, the improvement of combat training and the participation of Ukrainian military in peacekeeping operations around the world. Ukraine had long been making plans for a transition to a fully professional army, but low defense budgets (currently about $2 billion or only 1.1% of GDP) have hampered the process. In line with the ongoing military reform, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are to be downsized almost 50% by 2017, from 193,000 personnel to 100,000. The goal of the reform is to create in Ukraine “modern European-like armed forces, small in numbers but well-trained, properly supported, mobile and professional,” according to the country’s General Staff.
The last conscription to the Armed Forces of Ukraine was to be held in autumn of 2013. This was informed by first deputy defense minister of Ukraine Olexandr Oliynyk during a press conference held at the House of Government on 04 March 2013. “In accordance with this term the activity in completing the Armed Forces of Ukraine by contract military officers is being held. All the conditions are created for that. In particular, concerning raising of social protection of contract military officers,” Olexandr Oliynyk stressed.
The 2013 spring conscription campaign became the last but one before the Ukrainian Armed Force will move from mandatory to contract military service. Although 15,429 young men were summoned to undergo health checks, but only 750 conscripts carried their constitutional duty. However, even this mission seemed to be difficult to accomplish as many draftees face health problems, administrative or criminal prosecution for different offences, lack of basic secondary education, and etc.
Over 4,000 Ukrainian servicemen and their families were evacuated from Crimea to mainland Ukraine as of 25 April 2014, the press service of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry reported. "As of April 25, 4,124 persons arrived from the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to mainland Ukraine. Among them there were 1,422 officers, 103 students of military schools, 1,838 sergeants and soldiers serving on contracts, 18 Ukrainian Armed Forces employees and 743 members of their families, including 274 children," reads the statement.
According to the main personnel department of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, those evacuated largely included representatives of the Ukrainian Navy and their families (2,862 persons) and 835 representatives of the Ukrainian Air Force and their families. The rest are from the units directly subordinated to the Defense Ministry and the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
In addition, as of April 24, according to the General Staff, 429 pieces of weapons and military equipment were moved from Crimea to mainland Ukraine, including 13 ships, boats and vessels of the Ukrainian Navy, 181 vehicles, over 60 armored vehicles and 25 pieces of aviation equipment, as well as rocket and artillery systems, communications, etc. Overall, 105.5 tonnes of military equipment have been withdrawn.
Out of 18,000 Ukrainian troops stationed in Crimea, 3,000 said they wished to continue service with the Ukrainian armed forces, according to Russian sources. The troops departed by buses from various areas in the Black Sea peninsula. Military equipment would be transported to Ukraine by railways, under an agreement with the Russian Defense Ministry. About 12,000 of the 15,450 members of the Ukrainian Navy were based in the Crimea. The Acting Defense Minister Igor Tenyukh reported that 4,300 soldiers from the Crimea wanted to continue to serve in the Forces of Ukraine. "4,300 troops and 2,200 members of their families have expressed a desire to continue to serve in the Armed Forces of Ukraine", - said I. Tenyukh, speaking from the rostrum of VR.
More than 16,000 former servicemen and civilian personnel of the Ukrainian armed forces were employed in the military service and given civilian jobs in the Russian armed forces, First Deputy Defense Minister Arkady Bakhin said at an intercom conference held at the situation center of the Defense Ministry on 15 April 2014. "The Russian citizenship was given to 9,268 former servicemen and personnel of the Ukrainian armed forces who were employed in the military service in the Russian armed forces on a contract basis," Bakhin said. Besides, a total of 7,050 former civilian personnel of the Ukrainian armed forces have been employed at the units of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Bakhin said.
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