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Zelensky issues decree to bolster Ukraine's military

February 1, 2022 6:06 pmby Illia Ponomarenko
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A convoy of the Ukrainian military's T-80 tanks moves on during exercises in Odesa Oblast on Jan. 29, 2022.

President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree on Feb. 1 to increase the total number of active service personnel with the Armed Forces and improve the conditions of service in the military.

The document, signed to "bolster the nation's defense capacity and the appeal of military service," says that the armed forces will enlist 100,000 more personnel by 2025, and reach 361,000 troops.

Following recent amendments to legislation, Ukraine's Armed Forces had a limit of 261,000 active service members, including a 10,000-strong core for Territorial Defense units and additional 1,000 Special Operations specialists.

Twenty new combined arms brigades (normally including nearly 3,000 personnel each) are to be incepted as well.

Besides, the decree suggests introducing "a model of intense military training as a possible alternative to consсription service" starting from Jan. 1, 2024. During the latest military draft campaign in autumn 2021, Ukraine's power agencies were formally expected to call nearly 13,500 individuals to a one-year-long service.

Zelensky has ordered that bills on that be prepared and submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament.

"This decree is the Ukrainian start to switch to having a professional military," as Zelensky commented on Feb. 1.

As part of this campaign "to defend those who defend us," the president suggested a number of steps aimed at providing better social support to military personnel.

According to the decree, troops serving long-term contacts will have their monthly pay increased to at least three times the size of the minimum wage in Ukraine, which would bring it to nearly Hr 19,500 ($690) a month in 2022. As of now, the average start-level pay in the armed forces is roughly Hr 10,000 ($350) a month.

Besides, the Defense Ministry will have to develop a new housing program for military personnel, which remains a burning issue in Ukraine's Armed Forces, despite mass budget inflows. According to official data, 46,000 military service members are currently requesting free housing from the state.

The ministry is also expected to introduce a "transparent career promotion system" in the military based on individual ranking scores.

The decree also questionably suggests introducing longer-term contracts as a means of making military service in Ukraine more appealing. As of now, fit volunteers can sign contracts of military service for the duration between three and five years, and for six months under certain conditions.

The presidential initiative comes amid the ongoing acute security crisis as Russia's buildup in the region continues threatening a major military action against Ukraine, which greatly alarms the West.

However, the proposition to enlist as many as 100,000 more active service members and incept new combat brigades comes in contradiction to everlasting personnel problems haunting the Ukrainian Armed Forces for years.

According to numerous inquiries in the issue, tens of thousands of experienced specialists decided to leave for civilian life over the last years, citing poor conditions of service, low pay, overwhelming bureaucracy, and lack of career perspectives.

Besides, even already existing combat formations in Ukraine are known to be severely understaffed, in many cases reaching up to 50% of their standard establishment.

Following the backlash in the military community, particularly a number of formal petitions demanding pay increases, Zelensky in late December signed a decree increasing the minimum wage in the military to Hr 13,000 ($450) in 2022. Besides, after a range of scandals involving Air Force pilots leaving the military, the Defense Ministry also increased their monthly pay by between Hr 10,000 and Hr 16,000.

Illia Ponomarenko
Author: Illia Ponomarenko

Illia Ponomarenko is the defense and security reporter at the Kyiv Independent. He has reported about the war in eastern Ukraine since the conflict’s earliest days. He covers national security issues, as well as military technologies, production, and defense reforms in Ukraine. Besides, he gets deployed to the war zone of Donbas with Ukrainian combat formations. He has also had deployments to Palestine and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as an embedded reporter with UN peacekeeping forces. Illia won the Alfred Friendly Press Partners fellowship and was selected to work as USA Today's guest reporter at the U.S. Department of Defense.

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