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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid