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Ukraine’s third defense minister in six months sure sign military is demoralized

October 14, 2014, 15:19 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the newly-approved Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the newly-approved Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak

© Nikolai Lazarenko/TASS

MOSCOW, October 14. /TASS/. The resignation of Ukraine’s Defense Minister Valery Heletey, appointed just three months ago, and the nomination and approval of his successor, National Guard commander Stepan Poltorak, is evidence of personnel chaos in the armed forces, unprofessionalism of the authorities and demoralization of the military, the president of the Geopolitical Problems Academy, Doctor of Military Science Konstantin Sivkov has told TASS.

The Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday agreed with President Poroshenko’s idea Stepan Poltorak was the man who should take over the post of defense minister.

“Poltorak is a man from Interior Minister Arsen Avakov’s team. For a while he was commander of Ukraine’s Interior Ministry troops. As for Heletey, he is from President Petro Poroshenko’s inner circle, as a matter of fact, his personal bodyguard. He used to be in charge of Ukraine’s agency responsible for the security of senior officials. Poltorak’s nomination is sure evidence of the continuing under-the-carpet struggle for control of the army,” Sivkov believes.

“The way Poltorak commanded the National Guard in the zone of the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” in the south-east of Ukraine is well seen in the operation’s utter failure. On Monday, about fifteen hundred national guards - Poltorak’s subordinates just recently - staged a mutiny. They marched into the capital Kiev chanting “Demob! Demob!” and rallied in front of the presidential office to demand demobilization and cash compensations for the excessive time they spent in service,” Sivkov said.

Also, some National Guard members fear they may bear criminal responsibility for participation in the so-called “anti-terrorist operation.” Apart from conscripts the National Guard is manned by volunteers, many of whom have a criminal past. This is the type of men that Poltorak was in command of and this characterises him well enough. It is not accidental that Heletey’s dismissal and Poltorak’s appointment drew rather caustic remarks from the press - Bodyguard Goes, Gendarme Takes Over,” Sivkov said.

Dismissed Heletey during his brief career earned dubious publicity by declaring plans for an early victory parade in Sevastopol and holding a military parade in Kiev on the occasion of Ukraine’s independence anniversary. In the meantime, hundreds of Ukrainian regular troops and members of volunteer battalions were encircled near Ilovaisk in the east and killed in the fighting,” Sivkov recalled.

“In the run-up to the October 26 parliamentary elections President Poroshenko as the commander-in-chief had to sacrifice Heletey. While addressing the legislators on Tuesday Poroshenko urged them to ‘leave the criticism of the army beyond the scope of the election campaign."

“The Kiev authorities’ decision to appoint the third defense minister over the past six months is evidence of utter degradation of Ukraine’s political and military elite. In a normal political system defence ministers are not changed every now and then. The personnel reshuffles have adverse effects on the condition of the armed forces. This shows that Ukraine’s political system is off balance,” Sivkov believes.

Both officers and rank-and-file are reluctant to fight against their own people, they are demoralized and no defence minister will be able to bolster their morale and discipline as long as there is no lasting peace in south-eastern Ukraine,” he concluded.

 

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