09.07.2004 | Liuba Lazuka, Chortkiv

A farewell to arms


The word «reform» has already become usual, but for some people this word is repulsive. For example, for peasants, whose land is overgrown with weeds and covered with ruins of former kolkhoz buildings.

Since August of the past year this word nauseates the Ukrainian servicemen. There were some rumors that, at once after the celebration of the Independence Day, the President issued the secret edict about the reduction of the army. After 15 January 2004, when the commandments of army units were informed about the contents of the Order of the Minister of Defense about the subsequent stage of «reforming of the Armed Forces of Ukraine», the servicemen began to panic.

According to the Constitution of Ukraine (Article 85 item 22) the strength of the army is determined by the Supreme Rada. I reckon that President’s Edict and the Order of E. Marchuk were absolutely unexpected by MPs, since, as early as in 2001, they had decided that the strength of the Ukrainian army had to be 375 thousand, among them 295000 servicemen and 80000 civil workers. Now there are 265 thousand servicemen and workers in our Armed Forces. The President intends to reduce this number during the current year to 215 thousand (140 thousand servicemen). And one year later this number must decrease to 160 thousand (120 thousand servicemen). So, the army would be reduced more than twice. The rank of ensign is planned to be liquidated at all up to 2006.

The experts of the Razumkov’s center claim that such serious reduction can be conducted only during 5-6 years. The state would need not less than 2.9595 billion hryvnas for the successful realization of such reduction in 2004-2005. The Ministry of Defense asked to give from the state budget-2004 at least 500 million. Yet, the Law of Ukraine «On state budget-2004» allots only 368 million hryvnas for «The state program of reforming of the Armed Forces of Ukraine». At that, almost no money is allotted for social and professional adaptation of servicemen, dismissed in the connection with the new stage of the accelerated reduction of the army. The existing all-Ukrainian and regional programs of adaptation of the dismissed servicemen must be radically reconsidered. For example, in military units situated in the Ternopil oblast about 1000 officers and ensigns had to be discharged during 2004-2005, and now, according to prognoses, this number must be multiplied by five. The last session of the Ternopil oblast council approved the special appeal to the President and Parliament, which contained the proposition to suspend the reduction of the army until the State budget would be able to cover the losses for minimization of the social, legal, property, ecological, man-caused and other catastrophes caused by the so-called «reforming» of the Armed Forces. Yet, it is very doubtful that the Kyiv authorities will listen to the deputies of the oblast, which «incorrectly» votes at elections and whose budget for 70% consists of state subsidies.

Military unit No. A-4079, an air base situated in the town of Chortkiv, the Ternopil oblast, also got under the reform. It must be disbanded until the end of 2004: military equipment and ammunition will be passed to other units, and the servicemen will be dismissed. The land and buildings will be passed, according to the order, to the town council or sold by auction; the proceeds will be used for the development of the Ministry of Defense. There is a faint hope that the airdrome, located near the village of Yagilnitsa of the Chortkiv district, will not be destroyed. By the way, this is the only airdrome in the Ternopil oblast that can accept military and civil jet airplanes. Possibly, some other unit will be created there, for instance, a warehouse or the ground for utilization of military waste products. Yet, 2-3 years ago the airdrome was repaired. The neglecting of it would result in plunderage of the property and a number of ecological problems.

600 officers and ensigns should be discharged from unit À-4079 before the end of 2004. These people got accustomed to the salary of 1000-2000 hryvnas. And now they will be dismissed without any guarantees of the job placement, to say nothing about the re-education. The local education establishments would agree to realize the professional re-education of the former servicemen, but only if there would be the corresponding normative base and budget financing. Alas, these are only dreams yet.

200 families of servicemen in the garrison have no flats. Yes, they will automatically pass to the line for receiving flats at the town council. Yet, this will not solve their housing problems, since the town council does not carry out the building of dwelling houses for a long time. The officers of the pension age are luckier in this situation, but there are only 20% of such servicemen. Others, who are younger, will experience many hardships. The servicemen dismissed because of the army reduction will get 50% of salary for every year of army service (if an officer served for 20 years – he would get 10 salaries, if 8 – then 4). This will support them and their families for some time.

The majority of servicemen are perplexed and do not see the perspectives of civil life. They cannot even think about the protection of their rights or protest actions: these people are used to live according to orders. By the words of lieutenant colonel I. Kozachenko, a deputy of the commander of the unit, it became difficult to keep the proper level of military discipline after the beginning of the reforming of the air base, there are many petty internal conflicts, some servicemen gave themselves up to despair. They extremely need the psychological aid, which may be rendered only by the state. Yet, such aid is not envisaged by the operating laws. The commandment and psychologist of the unit do their best to support the servicemen, but it is insufficient. The rehabilitation should be carried out outside the military unit, former officers must separate themselves from the army service and begin to prepare to the civil life. Military pilots are very vulnerable. They, who always were regarded as elite, are not needed now by the Ukrainian army.

By the way, attitude of the professional servicemen to the projects of forced passage of the Ukrainian army to the contract principle is extremely skeptical. For instance, last year 50 persons had got to the Chortkiv unit by contract, and 40 of them were dismissed. Colonel Yu. Kryshtal, the commander of the unit, explained: «They were dismissed because they did not fulfill the conditions of the contract». There are many contract servicemen in this unit, who are studying by correspondence in higher education establishments and serve only with the purpose to earn money for education. And there are no guarantees that they will not leave the service after the graduation.

Is it possible that our army would be battle-worthy and morally healthy under such conditions? Would not we come across the spontaneous demonstrations of discontent and the increase in crime?

Servicemen do not believe that the so-called «reform» of the army is realized in the interests of its modernization and increase of the military efficiency of Ukraine. They also do not believe that our political elite cares for concrete defenders of motherland.

It seems that only merchants are seriously worried with the consequences of the «reform»: they will lost their clients, since the officers would have no money. The reforming of the military unit will, undoubtedly, undermine the local economics, will provoke the growth of unemployment and, as a result, of criminality. One thousand out of 12 thousand of the able-to-work population of the town serves in this military unit. It is almost impossible to find a job in Chortkiv. So, the discharged servicemen will, most likely, go to the shady business, or, at best, will go abroad like many other Chortkiv dwellers. And some of them would, maybe, try the doubtful «luck» serving by contract in Iraq, Sierra-Leone or Liberia, the countries, where they can lost their lives or, at least, health.

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