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Ukrainian Armed Forces

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Ukrainian Armed Forces

Armed Forces of Ukraine
Збройні сили України

Emblem of the Armed Forces
Founded 1917 (reconstituted December 6, 1991)[1]
Service branches Ground Forces

Air Force

Supreme Commander-in-Chief Viktor Yanukovych
Minister of Defence Pavlo Lebedyev
Chief of the General Staff & Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant General Volodymyr Zamana[2]
Military age 18
Conscription 12 months (GF, AF)
18 months (Navy)
Available for
military service
11,149,646, age 16-49 (2008 est.[3])
Fit for
military service
6,970,035, age 16-49 (2008 est.[3])
Reaching military
age annually
256,196 (2008 est.[3])
Active personnel 159,000 (ranked 36)
Reserve personnel 1,000,000
Deployed personnel 466
Budget $1.9 billion(2012)
16.1 billion UAH[4]
Percent of GDP 1.1%
Domestic suppliers Ukrainian Defense Industry
Related articles
Ranks Military ranks of Ukraine

Flag of the Armed Forces

The Armed Forces of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Збройні сили України (ЗСУ) Zbroyni Syly Ukrayiny, (ZSU)) are the military of Ukraine. Ukraine is officially a non-aligned state, but has a rather warm relationship with its neighbor the Russian Federation, allowing the latter to keep some contingents of its military forces on Ukrainian soil.

The current Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is Lieutenant General Volodymyr Zamana. He replaced Colonel General Hryhorii Pedchenko in February 2012 after a decree was issued by President Yanukovych. Military units of other states participate in multinational military exercises with Ukrainian forces in Ukraine regularly.[5] Many of these exercises are held under the NATO co-operation programme Partnership for Peace.


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. Administratively the Ukrainian SSR was divided into three military districts (the Carpathian Military District, Kiev Military District, and Odessa Military District) and most of the Black Sea Fleet naval bases were located on the coast of Ukraine.

As the collapse of the Soviet Union took place before 1992 (see Novo-Ogoryovo process), Ukraine inherited one of the most powerful force grouping in Europe. According to an associate of the Conflict Studies Research Centre, James Sherr: "This grouping, its inventory of equipment and its officer corps were designed for one purpose: to wage combined arms, coalition, offensive (and nuclear) warfare against NATO on an external front".[6] At that time, the former Soviet armed forces in the Ukrainian SSR included a rocket army (43rd Rocket Army), four air force armies, an air defense army (8th Air Defence Army), three regular armies, two tank armies, one army corps and the Black Sea Fleet.[7] Altogether the Armed Forces of Ukraine included about 780,000 personnel, 6,500 tanks, about 7,000 combat armored vehicles, 1,500 combat aircraft, more than 350 ships, 1,272 strategic nuclear warheads and 2,500 tactical nuclear missiles.

On 26 February 1991 a parliamentary Standing Commission for Questions of Security and Defence was established. On August 24, 1991, the Ukrainian parliament (the Verkhovna Rada), in adapting the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine, also enacted a short resolution "About military formations in Ukraine".[8] This took jurisdiction over all formations of the armed forces of the Soviet Union stationed on Ukrainian soil, and established one of the key agencies, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence.[9] On 3 September 1991 the Ministry of Defence commenced its duties. On 22 October 1991 units and formations of the Soviet Armed Forces on Ukrainian soil were nationalised.[10] This was followed by two Laws of Ukraine that were adopted by the Supreme Council of Ukraine on December 6, 1991[11][12] and Presidential Ukase #4 "About Armed Forces of Ukraine" on December 12, 1991.[13] The government of Ukraine surrendered any rights of succession of the Soviet Strategic Deterrence Forces[14] (see Strategic Missile Troops) that were staged on the territory of Ukraine. Recognizing the complications of a smooth transition and seeking a consensus with other former members of the Soviet Union in dividing up their Soviet military inheritance, Ukraine joined ongoing talks that started in December 1991[15] regarding a joint military command of the Commonwealth of Independent States.[16]

Inherent in the process of creating a domestic military were political decisions by the Ukrainian leadership regarding the country's non-nuclear and international status. Among these was the definition, agreement and ratification of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) which not only established the maximum level of armament for each republic of the former USSR, but also a special ceiling for the so-called CFE "Flank Region". Included in this region were Ukraine's Mykolaiv, Kherson, Zaporizhia Oblasts, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Another key event in the creation of the Ukrainian military was the 1992 Tashkent Treaty, which laid out aspirations for a Commonwealth of Independent States military that would prove impossible to develop because the former republics of the USSR all wished to go their own way, ripping the intricate Soviet military machine into pieces.

All military and security forces, including the Armed Forces of Ukraine and a number of independent "militarized institutions" (paramilitary forces) are under the command of the President of Ukraine, and subject to oversight by a permanent Verkhovna Rada parliamentary commission. Ukrainian military tactics and organization are heavily dependent on Cold War tactics and former Soviet Armed Forces organization. Under former President Yushchenko Ukraine pursued a policy of independence from Russian dominance, and thus tried to fully integrate with the West, specifically NATO.

However, Ukraine retains tight military relations with Russia, inherited from their common Soviet history. Common use of naval bases in Crimea and joint air defense efforts are the most intense branches of such cooperation. This cooperation is a permanent irritant in bilateral relations, but the country is unable to break such ties quickly, being economically dependent on Moscow. Furthermore, following the election of current President Victor Yanukovych, ties between Moscow and Kiev have warmed, and those between Kiev and NATO have cooled relative to the Yushchenko years.

Plagued at times by hostile relations with Russia following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been steadfastly trying to develop its own independent military industry. Notable results of this effort are the Ukrainian-built T-84 main battle tank, currently in service, and the aircraft manufacturer Antonov. 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,[17] navigation electronics for combat vessels and submarines, guidance systems, and radar for military jets. Tough competition in the world's weapons market obliged Ukraine to consider exporting arms to politically unstable or even aggressive regimes. Ukraine built its own connections in arms exporting. The first contracts on weapons deliveries to Iran, signed in the middle of 1992, caused negative reactions in the West, particularly from the United States federal government.

Several unfortunate accidents involving the Armed Forces have occurred since 1992, including the crash of an Air Force Su-27 in the Sknyliv airshow disaster of 2002.


The Ukrainian armed forces are largely made up of conscripts. The total personnel (including 41,000 civilian workers) at the end of 2010 will be 200,000.[18] The branch structure is as follows:

With the adoption on December 26, 1996, of a new "State Programme for the Building and Development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine", a new type of military district was established in northeast Ukraine, centered in the city of Chernihiv and designated as the Northern Operational/Territorial Command, later renamed the Northern Operational Command. The State Programme also provided that two military districts, Carpathian and Odessa, [would] be renamed the Western and Southern Operational Commands respectively.[21]

Ukraine maintains a number of Guards units, tracing their traditions to the Soviet Armed Forces. A list can be seen at List of guards units of Ukraine. Women comprise almost 13% of the armed forces (18,000 personnel) but few females hold high rank (2.9% or 1,202 women).[22] Contractual military service accounts for almost 44% of women. However, this is closely linked to the low salary of such positions: men refuse to serve in these conditions while women accept them.[22]

A number of universities have specialised military institutes, such as the Faculty of Military Legal Studies at Kharkiv's National Yaroslav Mudryi Law Academy of Ukraine. The primary Ukrainian military academies are:

  • Petro Sahaidachny Ground Forces Academy, Lviv
  • Nakhimov Naval Academy, Sevastopol
  • Ivan Kozhedub Air Force University, Kharkiv (ru:Харьковский университет Воздушных Сил имени Ивана Кожедуба)

In addition the National Defense University of Ukraine (uk:Національний університет оборони України) is in Kiev.[23]

The Chief Military Clinic Hospital is located in Kiev.[24]

International relationships

Ukraine's stated national policy is Euro-Atlantic integration, with the European Union. Ukraine has a "Distinctive Partnership" with NATO (see Enlargement of NATO) and has been an active participant in Partnership for Peace exercises and in peacekeeping in the Balkans. This close relationship with NATO has been most apparent in Ukrainian cooperation and combined peacekeeping operations with its neighbor Poland in Kosovo. Ukrainian servicemen also serve under NATO command in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Operation Active Endeavour.[25] Current Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych considers the level of co-operation between Ukraine and NATO sufficient.[26] His predecessor Viktor Yushchenko had asked for Ukrainian membership by early 2008.[27][28] During the 2008 Bucharest summit NATO declared that Ukraine will become a member of NATO whenever it wants and when it meets the criteria for accession.[26] Ukrainian President Yanukovych opted to keep Ukraine a non-aligned state. This materialized on June 3, 2010 when the Ukrainian parliament excluded, with 226 votes, the goal of "integration into Euro-Atlantic security and NATO membership" from the country's national security strategy.[29]

Arms Control and Disarmament

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited two divisions of the Strategic Rocket Forces' 43rd Rocket Army (HQ Vinnytsia): the 19th Rocket Division (Khmelnytskyi) (90? UR-100N/SS-19/RS-18) and the 46th Rocket Division at Pervomaisk, Mykolaiv Oblast, equipped with 40 SS-19 and 46 silo-mounted RT-23 Molodets/SS-24s.[30] Ukraine voluntarily gave up these and all other nuclear weapons during the early 1990s. This was the first time in human history that a country voluntarily gave up the use of strategic nuclear weapons, although the Republic of South Africa was dismantling its small tactical nuclear weapons program at about the same time.

Ukraine has plentiful amounts of highly enriched uranium, which the United States wanted to buy from the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology. Ukraine also has two uranium mining and processing factories, a heavy water plant and technology for determining the isotopic composition of fissionable materials. Ukraine has deposits of uranium that are among the world’s richest. In May 1992, Ukraine signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) in which the country agreed to give up all nuclear weapons and to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state. Ukraine ratified the treaty in 1994, and as of January 1, 1996, no military nuclear equipment or materials remain on Ukrainian territory.

On 13 May 1994, the United States and Ukraine signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Transfer of Missile Equipment and Technology. This agreement committed Ukraine to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) by controlling exports of missile-related equipment and technology according to the MTCR Guidelines.

Recent operations

Ukraine has been playing an increasingly larger role in peacekeeping operations. Since 1992, over 30,000 soldiers have taken part in missions in the former Yugoslavia (IFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNPROFOR and UNTAES in Croatia, KFor in Serbia/Kosovo), the Middle East (Southern Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq), and Africa (Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia).[31]

Since 1997, Ukraine has been working closely with NATO and especially with Poland. A Ukrainian unit was deployed as part of the multinational force in Iraq under Polish command. Ukrainian troops are also deployed as part of the Ukrainian-Polish Battalion (UKRPOLBAT) in Kosovo. The total Ukrainian military deployment around the world as of 1 August 2009 is 540 servicemen participating in 8 peacekeeping missions.[31]

The first battle of a regular formation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces happened on April 6, 2004 in Kut, Iraq, when the Ukrainian peacekeeping contingent was attacked by militants of the Mahdi Army. The Ukrainians took fire, and over several hours held the objectives they had been assigned to secure.[32]

Ukrainian troops as part of the former Soviet Armed Forces contingent participated in UNPROFOR in 1992, and in the summer of that year were involved into the civil war in Yugoslavia. On July 3, 1992 the Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution committing the Ukrainian Armed Forces to UN peacekeeping missions. The Minister of Defense, Kostyantyn Morozov, ordered the creation of the 240th Separate Special Battalion (UKRBAT-1) which was based on the 93rd Guard Motor-Rifle Division (now the 93rd Mechanized Infantry Division). Soon after arrival in Sarajevo on July 31, 1992, the battalion's artillery complex ended up in the middle of a mutual mortar fight between the Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Muslims. One of the Serbian shells hit the Ukrainian position, seriously wounding seven soldiers, one of which died after hospitalization in Germany.

Deployment outside Ukraine

Armies of Ukraine
Kievan Rus'
Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia
Cossack Hetmanate
Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria
Ukrainian People's Republic
Ukrainian National Government
Ukrainian SSR
  • Armed Forces (1992–Present)

Deployments as of September 2010:

Other militarized institutions of Ukraine

Ukraine's Armed Forces outside the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense consist of:

Although not components of the Armed Forces, these militarized institutions are supposed to come under the Armed Forces' command during wartime.

Military Holidays

These are the professional military holidays of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.[41]

  • February 23 - The Defender Day (celebrated mainly by Soviet officers)
  • July 8 - The Air Defence Day
  • Last Sunday in July - The Navy Day;[42] From 1997 till 2011 this day was celebrated on August 1[43][44]
  • August 2 - The Airmobile Forces Day
  • August 8 - The Signal troops Day
  • September 7 - The Day of Military Intelligence
  • September 9 - The Day of Armour
  • September 14 - The mobilization serviceman Day
  • October 14 - The Day of UIA (ukr. УПА) foundation
  • October 29 - The Day of finance officers
  • November 3 - The Rocket Forces and Artillery Day
  • November 3 - The Day of Engineers
  • December 6 - The Armed Forces Day; festive fireworks and salutes take place in various cities in Ukraine[45]
  • December 12 - The Day of Ground Forces
  • December 23 - The Day of all level operational control structures servicemen.



Further reading

  • John Jaworsky, Ukraine's Armed Forces and Military Policy, Harvard Ukrainian Studies Vol. 20, UKRAINE IN THE WORLD: Studies in the International Relations and Security Structure of a Newly Independent State (1996), pp. 223–247
  • Kuzio, T., Ukrainian Armed Forces in Crisis, Jane's Intelligence Review, 1995, Vol. 7; No. 7, page 305
  • Ben Lombardia, Ukrainian armed forces: Defence expenditure and military reform, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Volume 14, Issue 3, 2001, pages 31–68
  • Walter Parchomenko, Prospects for Genuine Reform in Ukraine's Security Forces, Armed Forces & Society, 2002, Vol.28, No.2
  • Brigitte Sauerwein, 'Rich in Arms, Poor in Tradition,' International Defence Review, No. 4, April 1993, 317-318.
  • J Sherr, Ukraine: The Pursuit of Defence Reform in an Unfavourable Context, 2004, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom
  • J Sherr, Into Reverse?: The Dismissal of Ukraine's Minister of Defence, 2004, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom
  • Sharon L. Wolchik, Ukraine: The Search for a National Identity
  • Steven J Zaloga, 'Armed Forces in Ukraine,' Jane's Intelligence Review, March 1992, p. 135
  • Jane's Intelligence Review, September 1993, re Crimea
  • Woff, Richard, Armed forces of the former Soviet Union : evolution, structure and personalities London : Brassey's, c1996.

External links

  • Official Website of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense: in Ukrainian (English)/(Ukrainian)
  • - Ministry of Defense' Army of Ukraine magazine (Ukrainian)
  • Ukraine Defence White Book: 2007
  • "Defense-Express" specialized news agency (a project of Ukrainian "Center for Army Conversion and Disarmament Studies" NGO; subscription needed for most of the material)
  • military history magazine (including info on insignia and military museums)
  • Information on Ukrainian military human and weapons resources.
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