We discuss the events in eastern Ukraine and search for a way out of the crisis with military expert Ihor KOZII.
With the new president taking office, do you see any changes in the settlement of the situation in the east?
“There are shifts on both sides. What we see now is positional struggle over dominance in a given area. For example, everyone says that militants are trying to create a new stronghold in Snizhne and we see no significant reaction to it by the anti-terrorist operation forces. On the other hand, there are some intensified efforts and attempts to seize the tactical initiative in Sloviansk. However, we still see the lack of organization and coordination between different security agencies and firing capabilities that should be used very quickly, and we have no such ability. We do not know what the Ministry of Internal Affairs is doing with the National Guard, and how the Armed Forces fare. In fact, the border guards are trying to do more than they can to stop the influx of militants, but they do not have these capabilities.
“There are also conflicts between factions of terrorists, as their so-called leader, a citizen of Russia, had Sloviansk’s ‘people’s mayor’ arrested, indicating Russia’s attempts to tighten the state control in certain centers. However, Russia as represented by Sergey Glazyev has not abandoned the idea to occupy Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Therefore we must always have serious reserves that could repel invaders. We need for it a working foreign intelligence service and military counterintelligence vertical, which should operate among our troops in the field. These agencies have to inform the leadership about the possible onset of aggression.
“The combination of all these problems, plus uncontrolled activities of the still present ‘fifth column,’ may bring dire consequences.”
The border guards’ problem is a complex one, as the terrorists are already setting up their “border checkpoints” and establish cooperation with the Russian border guards. What does it mean?
“Russia is preparing for a full-scale occupation. What can be unclear about it? Yevhen Marchuk was among the first to give a clear explanation of the situation, covering why and how it happens. The state must make every effort to defend itself.
“The border guards are not equipped today to counter the aggression, as they have no heavy guns, just conventional assault rifles. There are attempts to issue them with grenade launchers, but what about MANPADS which could stop the planes? How to deal with serious artillery systems, or at least establish the interaction between each border post and Air Force units? It should be not only in words, but on paper, as it would allow a timely response. There must be a comprehensive approach.
Ihor KOZII: “The president’s first step should be replacement of the law-enforcement chiefs”
“We need to question the work of the Security Service of Ukraine, because we still have not rebuilt the vertical of military counterintelligence and we do not know what is going on in our rear and the president does not have a clear picture of the whole situation. Previously, officers controlled the entire command chain of the Armed Forces and had established agent network.
“The UK, Hungary, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland have not abandoned the vertical of military counterintelligence, while we, living on the border with Russia, believe that we do not need it.”
At present, is there the issue of accountability? For example, chief of the Border Guard Service is Mykola Lytvyn, while his brother Volodymyr Lytvyn heads the Verkhovna Rada Committee of National Security and Defense.
“Indeed, while Volodymyr Lytvyn and Oleksandr Kuzmuk sit on this committee, we cannot do anything with law-enforcement bodies. After all, these people are politicians. In fact, to do something, we need to restart the parliament and then take some organizational measures. Today’s so-called ‘majority’ is illusory and every politician is struggling for their own interests. We have to take into account even those politicians who are suspected of being involved in the Gongadze case.”
President Petro Poroshenko receives a lot of attention now. There are many tests that he must pass in order to confirm that he serves the national interests first and foremost. These include the Gongadze case and the Lytvyn brothers situation. Is the president able to pass these tests?
“The people believed him, understood him, and had him elected. However, the defense sector is now the least protected structure. It was disarmed, the patriots were kicked out and now there are just opportunists there who are willing to serve anyone. The National Defense Academy of Ukraine, for example, had cases where officers stated that they would not fight against Russia. This fifth column is the main problem now. It makes us vulnerable, all our actions are seen and monitored.
COMBAT ACTION PARTICIPANT’S CARDS WILL BEGIN TO BE ISSUED AFTER THE END OF THE COUNTER-TERRORIST OPERATION, ACTING DEFENSE MINISTER MYKHAILO KOVAL SAYS / Photo by Serhii KHARCHENKO
“The first step is for the president to protect our own Armed Forces, to make them combat-ready. It should involve bringing new people to the National Security Council and the Cabinet Secretariat’s defense department, the identical departments in the Presidential Administration and down the vertical.”
How do you feel about the president’s initiative to create a “humanitarian corridor” for fleeing residents of the eastern regions and the border corridor for Russian mercenaries?
“It is definitely a positive move by Poroshenko as a diplomat willing to stop the bloodshed. But we need to be aware if Glazyev is ready to remove Russian forces from Ukraine.”
This is not just Glazyev, Speaker of the Russian State Duma Sergey Naryshkin also said that it was Ukraine that annexed Crimea in 1991.
“He can talk all he wants, forgetting about the Far East Ukrainian republic, and the Krasnodar Krai. Let politicians make fiction, but the military professionals now see the real aggressor and the possibility that Ukraine may be occupied. To avoid this, we must work every day to strengthen the country’s defenses, protect our Armed Forces, equip them, enable and equip border guards to perform military tasks. We must also make the intelligence services to work efficiently, accurately, carefully. And most importantly, they have to establish a working relationship allowing all these structures to cooperate.”
Can these “corridors” be created?
“It can be done by agreement of the parties to the conflict, but without it, or if the Russian-supported various saboteurs who call themselves ‘people’s mayors’ attempt to create a humanitarian conflict, we should be ready for it. When creating a corridor, it must be 100 percent understood what the consequences might be if a party tries to disrupt it, and what can be done to prevent these consequences from happening. Evacuating civilians from the combat zone is a military operation, too. We must seriously prepare for it.”
By Ivan KAPSAMUN, Inna LYKHOVYD, The Day