Armed Forces of Ukraine

Armed Forces of Ukraine
Збройні сили України
Emblem of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.svg
Emblem of the Armed Forces
Ensign of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.svg
Flag of the Armed Forces
Current formreconstituted 6 Dec 1991[1]
Service branchesEmblem of Ukrainian Ground Forces Ground Forces
Emblem of Ukrainian Air Force Air Force
Emblem of Ukrainian Navy Navy
Emblem of Ukrainian Airmobile Forces Air Assault Forces
Emblem of Special Operations Special Operations Forces[2]
Supreme Commander-in-ChiefPetro Poroshenko[3]
Minister of DefenceStepan Poltorak[4]
Chief of the General StaffViktor Muzhenko[4][5]
Military age18[6]
Conscription12 months (GF, AF)
18 months (Navy)
Available for
military service
11,149,646, age 16–49 (2015[10])
Fit for
military service
6,970,035, age 16–49 (2015[10])
Reaching military
age annually
482,000 (2018) (2015[10])
Active personnel255,000 (2018)[7] (ranked 29)
Reserve personnel1,000,000 (2018)[8]
Deployed personnel60,000[9]
Budget6.1 billion[11] (2019)
Percent of GDP5.1% (2019)
Domestic suppliersUkroboronprom (Ukrainian Defence Industry)
Foreign suppliers United States[12]
 United Kingdom[12]
 European Union[12]
Related articles
HistoryUkrainian–Soviet War
Polish–Ukrainian War
1992–94 Crimean crisis
Kosovo Force
Tuzla Island conflict
Iraq War
Operation Ocean Shield
Operation Atalanta
Pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine
Annexation of Crimea
War in Donbass
RanksMilitary ranks of Ukraine
Lesser Coat of Arms of Ukraine.svg
This article is part of a series on the
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The Armed Forces of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Збройні сили України (ЗСУ) Zbroyni Syly Ukrayiny, (ZSU)) is the military of Ukraine. They are the principal deterrent force against any aggression that could be shown against the sovereign state of Ukraine. All military and security forces, including the Armed Forces, are under the command of the President of Ukraine, and subject to oversight by a permanent Verkhovna Rada parliamentary commission.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine are composed of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, the Ukrainian Navy, the Ukrainian Air Force, and the Ukrainian Airmobile Forces. Ukraine's naval forces maintain their own small Ukrainian Naval Infantry force as well as their own Ukrainian Naval Aviation force. The Ukrainian Sea Guard is the coast guard service of Ukraine, however, it is part of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine and is not subordinate to the Navy. As a result of the Russian military intervention in Ukraine from 2014, the president commissioned governors of oblasts of Ukraine to create volunteer units under the government program "Territorial Defense". Initially these units received minimal funding coming from regional budgets and mostly relied on donations. In November 2014 most of the territorial battalions were integrated into Ukraine's Ground forces.

The National Guard of Ukraine serves as the main reserve component of Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Due to the ongoing hostilities with Russia, Ukraine has greatly increased the size of its military forces to 204,000 soldiers (+46,000 civil servants) in 2014, not counting paramilitary forces such as the border guards (53,000), the newly formed National Guard of Ukraine (60,000) or the security service.[13] Ukraine's armed forces came close to France, which maintained a 229,000 man force, as the largest in Europe when excluding Russia.[14] It was reported that Ukraine's military swelled to 280,000 personnel. This was largely achieved by the repeated waves of mobilization bringing in new recruits while older soldiers had not yet been processed out, the state budget for 2015 ultimately called for a force of 230,000. Hryhoriy Pedchenko reported that 51% of Ukraine's enlisted personnel were contracted soldiers.[15][16]

Military units of other states participate in multinational military exercises with Ukrainian forces in Ukraine regularly.[17] Many of these exercises are held under the NATO co-operation program Partnership for Peace.

Since 3 June 2016, women have been allowed to serve in combat units of the Armed Forces.[18]


Origins of the Modern Ukrainian Military

As of 1992, the Ukrainian Armed Forces were completely inherited from the Soviet Union, in which Ukraine had been a member state (a union republic). 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 Soviet military districts (the Carpathian Military District, Kiev Military District, and Odesa Military District). Three Soviet air commands and most of the Black Sea Fleet naval bases were located on the coast of Ukraine.

When the collapse of the Soviet Union took place in 1991 (see Novo-Ogaryovo process), the newly-independent state of Ukraine inherited one of the most powerful force groupings in Europe. According to an associate of the Conflict Studies Research Centre, James Sherr: "This grouping, its inventory of equipment and its officer corps was designed for one purpose: to wage combined arms, coalition, offensive (and nuclear) warfare against NATO on an external front".[19] 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.[20] 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. Along with their equipment and personnel, Ukraine's armed forces inherited the battle honors and lineage of the Soviet forces stationed in Ukraine. However, due to the deterioration of Russian-Ukrainian relations and to the continued stigma of being associated with the Soviet Union, in 2015 the President of Ukraine ordered the removal of most of the citations awarded to the Ukrainian units during the Soviet era.[21]

On 26 February 1991, a parliamentary Standing Commission for Questions of Security and Defense was established. On August 24, 1991, the Ukrainian parliament (the Verkhovna Rada), in adopting the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine, also enacted a short resolution "About military formations in Ukraine".[22] 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 Defense.[23] 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 nationalized.[24] Subsequently, the Supreme Council of Ukraine adopted two Laws of Ukraine on December 6, 1991,[25][26] and Presidential Ukase #4 "About Armed Forces of Ukraine" on December 12, 1991.[27] The government of Ukraine surrendered any rights of succession to the Soviet Strategic Deterrence Forces[28] (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[29] regarding a joint military command of the Commonwealth of Independent States.[30]

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 were the definition, agreement, and ratification of the 1990 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 and Zaporizhia Oblasts, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Another key event in the development of the Ukrainian military was the 1992 Tashkent Treaty, which laid out aspirations for a Commonwealth of Independent States military. This collective military proved 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.

Ukraine had observer status with the Non-Aligned Movement of nation-states from 1996.[31] However, the Verkhovna Rada repealed this status on 23 December 2014.[32]

Arms Control and Disarmament

Tu-22M is dismantled through assistance provided by the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program implemented by the DTRA, 2002

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.[33] While Ukraine had physical control of these systems, it did not have operational control. The use of the weapons was dependent on Russian-controlled electronic Permissive Action Links and the Russian command and control system.[34][35]

Ukraine voluntarily gave up these and all other nuclear weapons during the early 1990s. This was the first time in 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.

Other disarmament – strategic planes & other missiles

Ukraine and NATO estimate that 2.5 million tons of conventional ammunition were 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.[36] As of 2014, much of this surplus had not been scrapped.[37][38]

Attempt at Reforms and Constant Fund Shortages

Ukraine's first military reforms began on December 26, 1996, with the adoption of a new "State Program for the Building and Development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine". One of the aspects was to shrink the standard combat unit from division size to brigade size which would then fall under the command of one of the three newly created military district; the Western Operational Command, the Southern Operational Command, and the largest – the Northern Operational/Territorial Command.[39] Only Ukraine's 1st Airmobile Division was not downsized. This downsizing occurred purely for financial reasons with Ukrainian economy in recession this was a way to shrink the government (defense) expenditure and at the same time release hundreds of thousands of young people into the private sector to stimulate growth.[40] During this time Ukraine's military-industrial complex also began to develop new indigenous weapons for the armed forces like the T-84 tank, the BMP-1U, the BTR-3, KrAZ-6322, and the Antonov An-70. All these reforms were championed by Leonid Kuchma, the 2nd President of Ukraine, who wanted to retain a capable military and a functioning military-industrial complex because he didn't trust Russia who he believed might one day become Ukraine's enemy, stating once "The threat of Russofication is a real concern for us".[41]

Kuchma was also eager to modernize the equipment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, however, after learning of the price tag of such a move, he backtracked, preferring to rely on the sizable Soviet supply of weapons which he made sure were well maintained.[citation needed] But the cancellation of the modernization program left a question of how to provide jobs in the military industrial complex which then comprised a double-digit percentage of the GDP. Export of new and modernized weapons on the world's arms markets was settled on as the best option, where Ukraine both tried to undercut the contracts of the Russian arms industry – offering the same service for a cheaper price, and was willing to sell equipment to whoever was willing to pay (more than once to politically unstable or even aggressive regimes), causing negative reactions from both Western Europe and the United States federal government.[42] During this time 320 T-80 tanks would be sold to Pakistan and an unfinished Soviet aircraft carrier the Varyag which today is known as the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.[43]

Though the military was well equipped it still experienced lack of funds particularly for training and exercises, which led to a number of incidents with one notable one being the Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 of 2001 the other Sknyliv airshow disaster of 2002. Still, the military's effectiveness was demonstrated during the Tuzla Island Conflict – when (brief description). In 2003 Ukraine completed its first set of reforms which were judged largely successful, with the personnel numbers stabilizing at 295,000 of which 90,000 were civilian contractors.[44]

  • Second phase 2004–2010
    • downsizing further
    • training
    • maintenance and new equipment
    • NATO and Russia
    • 2008 financial crisis
  • The Yanukovich Catastrophe (2011–2014)[45]
  1. appointment of Russian citizens to the ministry of defense and intelligence
  2. downsizing
  3. lack of funds for exercise, vehicle maintenance, and even monthly paychecks
  4. scrapping and sale of equipment
  5. incompetence in, and destruction of the military industrial complex

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.

Until the Euromaidan crisis of 2014, Ukraine retained tight military relations with Russia, inherited from their common Soviet history. Common uses for naval bases in the Crimea and joint air defense efforts were the most intense cooperative efforts. This cooperation was a permanent irritant in bilateral relations, but Ukraine appeared economically dependent on Moscow, and thus unable to break such ties quickly. After the election of President Victor Yanukovych, ties between Moscow and Kiev warmed, and those between Kiev and NATO cooled, relative to the Yushchenko years.

Conflict in Southeastern Ukraine (2014 – present)


In March 2014, after the Crimean crisis began, it was announced by the reformist government that a new military service, the National Guard of Ukraine would be created. Previously a National Guard had existed up until 2000, thus the 2014 NG is a reformation of the one raised in 1991, but this time formed part of personnel from the Internal Troops of Ukraine.

In May 2014 with war happening in eastern regions, a helicopter with 14 soldiers on board including General Serhiy Kulchytskiy, who headed combat and special training for the country's National Guard, was brought down by militants near Sloviansk in East Ukraine. Outgoing President Olexander Turchynov described the downing as a "terrorist attack," and blamed pro-Russian militants.[46]

In the early months of the War in Donbass, the Armed Forces were widely criticised for their poor equipment and inept leadership, forcing Internal Affairs Ministry forces like the National Guard and the territorial defence battalions to take on the brunt of the fighting in the first months of the war.[47][48]

In late July 2015, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry revealed new Ukrainian Armed Forces uniform designs, later a revised rank insignia system was created.[49] These made their national debut on August 24, 2016, at the National Independence Day Silver Jubilee parade in Independence Square, Kiev.

By February 2018 the Ukrainian armed forces were larger and better equipped than ever before, numbering 200,000 active-service military personnel and most of the volunteer soldiers of the territorial defence battalions have been integrated into the official Ukrainian army.[50]

A late 2017-early 2018 United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine reported that human rights abuses committed by Ukrainian military personnel are an ongoing issue of the War in Donbass that erupted in 2014. The nature of the crimes ranges from enforced disappearances, looting of civilian property, torture, rape and sexual violence up to political repression and extrajudicial killings. Within the reporting period of 16 November 2017 to 15 February 2018 the OHCHR monitoring mission documented 115 cases of credible allegations.[51]

Ukraine & NATO Membership

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.[52] Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych considered the level of co-operation between Ukraine and NATO sufficient.[53] His predecessor Viktor Yushchenko had asked for Ukrainian membership by early 2008.[54][55] 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.[53] Former 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.[56] Amid the Euromaidan unrest, Yanukovych fled Ukraine in February 2014.[57]

The interim Yatsenyuk Government which came to power, initially said, with reference to the country's non-aligned status, that it had no plans to join NATO.[58] However, following the Russian military intervention in Ukraine and parliamentary elections in October 2014, the new government made joining NATO a priority.[59] On 23 December 2014, the Ukrainian parliament renounced Ukraine's non-aligned status[57][60] that "proved to be ineffective in guaranteeing Ukraine's security and protecting the country from external aggression and pressure".[61] The Ukrainian military is since transforming to NATO standards.[62] Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk stated early February 2016 that de facto the Armed Forces must, soon as possible, begin its transition for Ukrainian entry into NATO and towards NATO-capable armed forces.[62]

Other Languages
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Узброеныя сілы Ўкраіны
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Oružane snage Ukrajine