The Ukrainian Army

By Slava Tsukerman

On August 11 a Ukrainian web site published an extraordinary interview with the commander of the Ukrainian Volunteer Battalion Dnepr–1 Yuri Bereza. What is the Volunteer Battalion Dnepr–1 and why an interview with its commander made such a sensation?

To understand the importance, one should first understand the contemporary Ukrainian Army. Below are some paragraphs from Wikipedia:

“The modern military in Ukraine was completely inherited from the Soviet Union, in which Ukraine was a member state. Like other Soviet republics, it did not possess its own separate military command, as all military formations were uniformly subordinated to the central command of the Armed Forces of the USSR.

“As the collapse of the Soviet Union took place before 1992…, Ukraine inherited one of the most powerful force groupings in Europe….  Altogether the Armed Forces of Ukraine included about 780,000 personnel, 6,500 tanks, about 7,000 combat armored vehicles, 1,500 combat aircraft, and more than 350 ships.

“Ukraine and NATO estimate that 2.5 million tons of conventional ammunition was left in Ukraine as the Soviet military withdrew, as well as more than 7 million rifles, pistols, mortars and machine guns. The surplus weapons and ammunition were stored in over 180 military bases, including in bunkers, salt mines and in the open. As of 2014, much of this surplus had not been scrapped…”

When the Soviet Union collapsed certain military groups that remained in Ukraine were called the Ukrainian army. Since Soviet commanders never kept in the area regiments that consisted of ethnic groups native to the  area, Ukraine inherited an Army of mostly non-Ukrainians. The new Ukrainian Government had neither knowledge nor interest for supervising or maintaining the military. Officially, the Ukrainian Army has now 90,000 of active personnel, but in reality, during the 20 years after the Soviet Union collapse, the separate groups have not welded into an army.

II am acquainted with a former colonel of the Soviet Strategic Missiles regiment that was located in Ukraine. In USSR such personal was sworn to top secrecy and weren’t permitted to travel abroad. After the collapse of the USSR the strict control was replaced with complete chaos. The colonel just left his job without officially resigning and fled with his family to the US. Now they live in Jersey City.

The Ukrainian generals were able to sell the equipment and supplies, which they actively did.  From time to time they reduced the number of people in their regiments and called it the reform of the army. Today the Ukrainian army is really a group of separate parts made up of commanders and personnel that choose to feel patriotic. And these parts still have numerous connections with their Russian roots.

Some more quotes from Wikipedia:

“Ukraine retains tight military relations with Russia, inherited from their common Soviet history.. the country is unable to break such ties quickly, being economically dependent on Moscow. Furthermore, following the election of President Victor Yanukovych, ties between Moscow and Kiev have warmed, and those between Kiev and NATO have cooled…

“Ukraine received about 30% of the Soviet military industry, which included between 50 and 60 percent of all Ukrainian enterprises, employing 40% of its working population. Ukraine was, and still remains, a leader in missile-related technology, navigation electronics for combat vessels and submarines, guidance systems, and radar for military jets…”

These Ukrainian factories don’t produce weapons, they produce parts for Russian weapons.

Volunteer Battalion Dnepr-1 was established in the spring of this year to protect the rule of law in the Dnepropetrovsk region. It was created and financed by the new governor of the Dnepropetrovsk region, Igor Kolomoiskiy, the billionaire and the president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine. (See my previous article).

After the start of the war in the South-Eastern Ukraine, the battalion became a regiment of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry and joined in the action.

The commander of the Ukrainian Volunteer Battalion Dnepr–1 Yuri Bereza

According to the commander of the battalion Yuri Bereza:

“Battalion Dnepr-1 is the prototype of the future Ukrainian Armed Forces and the police. This is exactly what the Ukrainian people dream of. The members of the Volunteer battalion do not take bribes and they protect citizens… Battalion Dnepr is formed only of volunteers. And not just from the volunteers, but patriotic volunteers. We do not have problem with their morale.”

In April, when it was created, the battalion had 500 members; now, according to Bereza, it has 4000 official fighters plus 3000 of those who joined it unofficially.

Russian propaganda demonizes Dnepr-1, calling the soldiers of the battalion private fighters of the billionaire Kolomoiskiy and attributing to them various atrocities, including even fire that downed Malaysian Boeing 777. Moscow has reason to hate Dnepropetrovsk volunteers: they played a very important role in the fact that Putin’s secret service failed to initiate rebellion and massacre in the Dnepropetrovsk region.

In his important interview, Yuri Bereza provided an explanation as to why the contemporary Ukrainian Army can’t fight effectively against the Russian army:

“We are all products of the same Soviet matrix. Unfortunately, most of the Ukrainian military leaders are not able to make decisions outside of the matrix. That is why the Russians are ahead of us and, in fact, had been beating us pretty often. It is because they perfectly know our matrix. Our methods came from their army.

“Russians cannot cope precisely with volunteers because we are not part of the matrix. But the Ukrainian army remains clearly in this matrix: no problem can be solved over there until the platoon leader will ask permission of the company commander, company commander asks the commander of the battalion, the battalion commander asks the commander of the brigade, the brigade commander asks the head of the Army, the head of the Army asks the Defense Minister and the Minister of Defense asks the President. The result – we were losing everywhere.”

Yuri Bereza is sure that Soviet traditions are disappearing in Ukraine and he has no doubt of a final Ukraine’s victory:

“The Russian people are not fighting with us. The Russian people cannot fight with the Ukrainian people. And have never been fighting.  It is their crappy rulers who are causing the fighting.  Only an idiot could think that we want to kill each other.

“I have met a prisoner of war – a guy from Irkutsk (Siberia). He says he has come to kill Polish Nazis and American aggressors. He is just a poor man, and now he wants to join the battalion Dnepr. He was fighting in Donetsk, in the special unit, and he ran away. Do you know why? He said: ‘I have come to protect Ukrainians’, but it turned out that he had joined a gang, which is fighting with another gang, and from time to time kills the Ukrainians. He was looking for black Americans, and couldn’t find them. He was forced to fight not even against Ukrainian nationalists, but against the Russian-speaking population.

“So what is going on is just a temporary result of propaganda, ideological moment of shock that now hangs over Russia because of their moronic TV.”

Updated: August 6, 2016 — 12:18 am © 2016