News / Europe

Dwarfed by Russian Might, Ukraine Plans New Force

Ukrainian soldiers outside the Ukrainian infantry base in Perevalne, Ukraine, March 12, 2014.
Ukrainian soldiers outside the Ukrainian infantry base in Perevalne, Ukraine, March 12, 2014.
Reuters
— Some 40,000 volunteers have come forward to join a proposed new National Guard, Ukraine's new pro-Western authorities say, a tentative first step towards overhauling a military outgunned and outmanned by Russia.

With Ukraine's Crimea peninsula firmly in the grip of Russian forces, parliament on Thursday considers a bill to create a 33,000-strong force.

Initiated by Acting President Oleksander Turchinov, who this week outlined the sorry state of the armed forces, the bill tasks the guard with maintaining public order, protecting sites like nuclear power plants and “upholding the constitutional order and restoring the activity of state bodies”.

Turchinov became interim head of state after three months of mass protests culminated in the overthrow of Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich, angering Moscow and triggering the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

“As of today, Ukraine's military enlistment offices have registered 40,000 volunteers,” an official statement quoted Andriy Parubiy, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, as saying. “Already tomorrow, the self-defense forces and activists of the Maidan will start their training.”

Parubiy was referring to Kiev's Independence Square, focus of the protests since late November. He earned public admiration as the “chief of staff”, responsible for maintaining order on the square during gatherings of up to a million demonstrators.

Turchinov told parliament on Tuesday that mismanagement under the ousted Yanukovich meant the armed forces had to be rebuilt “effectively from scratch”.

The acting defense minister said Ukraine had only 6,000 combat-ready infantry compared to more than 200,000 Russian troops on its eastern borders.

Among the dozens of men in combat gear still camped out on Independence Square and vowing to remain until they are satisfied with the new government, there was both interest and skepticism towards the new force.

Kolya Bondar, who leads a group calling itself the 4th Cossack Hundred, wanted more details of the government's plan. He suggested that, like citizen armies in Switzerland or Israel, civilians should be encouraged to keep rifles at home.

“I've heard of it,” a man called Mykola said uncertainly. “Sure. We're ready to fight Russia. We'll push them all the way to Siberia.”

Boosting defense

The creation of a National Guard is one of several measures under consideration to bolster defense capabilities. Exercises involving tanks, artillery and infantry get under way this week in western and northern Ukraine.

An earlier post-Soviet attempt to create a force patterned on the U.S. National Guard collapsed in the 1990s, with servicemen transferred to other military bodies.

And not all experts believe the new force will prove useful.

“At the moment, the main task is to strengthen the armed forces and marshal resources to enlarge them. This is not the most appropriate time to be creating a national guard,” said military analyst Sergei Zgurets.

“It would be more useful to talk about a national guard later when we start proceeding with real military reforms. How is this new institution to be armed, what will be its tasks? While we engage in discussions, we are losing lots of time.”

Parliament, with a reputation for fractiousness in the more than two decades since the Soviet Union collapsed, has so far passed by large majorities all legislation presented since the pro-Western leaders took power late last month.

Back on the square, a man wearing a badge of the Maidan “self-defense force” said he had served in the first shortlived national guard as a warrant officer in the 1990s, when Ukraine's authorities cut short earlier attempts in Crimea to promote pro-Russian separatism.

“It would be very hard for us to fight Russia. We don't have the weapons,” he said. “But they are fighting for money and we are fighting for our souls, our families. So there could be some kind of partisan warfare.”

You May Like

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid