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Ukraine sets task of building Europe's strongest army, returning Crimea — security chief

December 17, 2014, 16:24 UTC+3 KIEV
Ukraine plans to increase military spending by 100% next year, bring the number of troops to 250,000 and
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KIEV, December 17. /TASS/. Ukrainian authorities have set an ambitious task of building one of the strongest armies in Europe and bring Crimea back from Russia, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Oleksadr Turchynov said on Wednesday.

The country’s Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry will get a more than 10% share in the total budget spending for 2015 estimated at $31 billion. A total of 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) of cash-strapped Ukraine will go to the army.

“We need to create one of the strongest armies in Europe, and we have no other alternative,” Turchynov said. “Our war will end only when the whole territory of Ukraine is freed, including Crimea,” he said.

Turchynov, a former speaker of the country’s parliament who was appointed as the council’s new chief on Tuesday, said one of the first steps is to increase the army reserve to 100,000 people.

Ukraine plans to increase by 100% the country’s military spending next year to 50 billion hryvnias (some $3.2 billion), Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said last week.

Some 40,000 people will be called up for Ukrainian military service next year, bringing the number of troops to 250,000, the minister said. The United States and the European Union will provide funding for the military reform in Ukraine.

According to official data, Ukraine’s external debt has already reached $72.9 billion, and so far $14 billion has been repaid. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said last week the country’s gold and foreign currency reserves dropped below $10 billion, and there were no grounds to expect them to increase.

Meanwhile, the increase in Ukraine’s military budget will be apparently at the expense of social spending. The government has already announced plans to cut state spending on the social sphere by almost $1 billion.

Ukraine’s Finance Ministry has introduced a new social policy under which some 100,000 teachers are to be sacked over two years. Currently, the number of unemployed in the country with a 42 million-strong population reaches 2 million. The spending on Ukraine’s science and education will also be cut by $200 million. Over 400 schools in rural areas will be closed, and some social benefits, including free meals and extra payment for academic degrees, will be scrapped.

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