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Who can and can't join Ukraine's Territorial Defense Force

by Illia Ponomarenko January 7, 2022 10:20 PM 2 min read
A soldier from Ukraine's 130th Territorial Defense Battalion inspects a vehicle during urban combat exercises on March 30, 2021. (130th Territorial Defense Battalion)
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Starting from 2022, Ukraine's Territorial Defense Force will be a standalone branch of the country's armed forces.

It's calling on all willing volunteers to join and help to defend their own homes as "weekend warriors" — working their usual civilian jobs but doing occasional drills and exercises in their spare time.

According to new legislation that enters force in 2022, pretty much anyone aged between 18 and 60 can enlist in the force, which expects to recruit 11,000 servicemembers across the country.

The new legislation comes into force amid the looming threat of Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian intelligence, Russia has massed 122,000 troops near Ukraine's border since November.

The territorial defense units, mostly consisting of light infantry, will perform auxiliary missions behind the lines of the regular military. According to the Armed Forces, this will be a full-fledged military organization rather than a paramilitary.

According to the National Resistance Act, these formations must ensure security and order behind the frontline, assist the Armed Forces in combat operations, guard key infrastructure facilities, and render assistance in combating hostile subversive activities in their local areas.

The force's backbone will consist of former active-duty service members of the Armed Forces and other official military formations. They will be given top priority, as Ukraine's military said on Jan. 7.

Civilians with no combat or service experience, however, should not be discouraged: The road is open to them as well.

Civilian recruits first need to pass medical, professional, and psychological examinations — and if no issues are found, sign a service contract and take the Territorial Defense Volunteer oath.

The new, uniformed servicemember will be commissioned to a territorial defense unit in a city or territorial district where they reside. The military is expected to have a wide candidate pool: A recent poll by the Ukrainian Institute for the Future found that 32% of Ukrainians are ready to join the force.

However, there are certain limitations: Individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes or have two or more criminal record counts can't enlist.

"The advantage of this type of service is that personnel will serve near their homes and essentially defend their hometowns," a military spokesperson said on Jan. 4.

"They will serve as commissioned or non-commissioned officers, and as enlisted soldiers. All staff members are guaranteed to get salaries according to their position... All service members will retain their civilian jobs and usual salaries... if they are mobilized for active full-time service."

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