Ukraine’s Defense Ministry announced on Jan. 18 that it was speeding up the formation of 25 Territorial Defense Force brigades, which will be made up of over 150 battalions in total.
The announcement was made in a statement summarizing a meeting held between Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov and the top generals of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
The government’s plan is to build the reserve army around a core of 10,000 regular, full-time troops, but the force would reach 130,000 soldiers once fully mobilized.
Units will be grouped according to their location: brigades will be divided into 25 regions, while the battalions they are composed of will each represent a district. Each battalion will have up to 600 soldiers.
“The formation of the reserve parts of the Territorial Defense Force is the second stage (of the process) after the formation within brigades and battalions of an organizational and leadership core composed of regular soldiers,” said the ministry.
Long in the making
While the idea of a reservist force was discussed for years since Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea and Donbas, the Territorial Defense Force was only legally established with the entry into force of the National Resistance Act on Jan. 1, 2022.
Men and women between the ages of 18 and 60 can join the new force, which will be considered a fully fledged part of the armed forces. To sign up, one must be a Ukrainian citizen or a foreigner who has legally resided in Ukraine for at least five years.
A Jan. 5 opinion poll indicated that while a majority of Ukrainians did not feel ready to join a reservist force, 32% would be happy to do so.
Applicants will need to pass medical, psychological and professional examinations to join the force. Those with criminal records for serious crimes, or two or more convictions of any kind, are barred from joining.
The ministry specified that members of the Territorial Defense Force will be given weapons only for the duration of drills or defense missions. In the pictures distributed by the ministry, the Territorial Defense Force members are shown practicing with AK-family assault rifles.
A military spokesperson previously highlighted that the Territorial Defense Force would allow thousands of people wishing to help their country to remain in their civilian jobs, but also to serve as officers and enlisted soldiers in a fully fledged branch of the armed forces.
The spokesman also highlighted that, owing to the localized aspect of battalions and brigades, personnel will “serve near their own homes and essentially defend their hometowns.”
The Territorial Defense Forces are intended to primarily be used as an auxiliary force behind the regular infantry. In the event of a war, their primary role would be to secure key infrastructure and ensure order behind the front line.
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