Speech of Minister of Defence of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov during the hour of questions to the Government

2022-02-18 13:45:00 | ID: 66551

Dear Mr Chairman!

Dear Mr Prime Minister and Members of Parliament!

Dear People’s Deputies!

As there are many events going on now, I want to pay your attention on the general context of what is happening and also on the main challenges.

I will start with the situation in the JFO area.

What do you need to know?

Yesterday, the abnormal events were reported that clearly differ from what was happening at the beginning of the year. Our task is to curb this abnormality so it would not become pretence for escalation.

From January 1 to February 16, 107 shelling of our positions and 4 shelling of localities were reported exclusively along the line of contact in Donetsk and Luhansk regions coming from the temporarily occupied territories by Russia. They included 22 shelling by using weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreements.

Usually, there were 2-5 violations a day.

But there were periods of several days when no shelling was reported.

However, during the previous day, on February 17, the enemy conducted 60 shelling, 43 of which from the prohibited weapons, using conventional artillery, mortars of different calibres, grenade launchers, tanks and ATGMs.

The shelling started at around 5:00 a.m. and lasted, with breaks, until 14:00. Then it started again after 22:00.

The shelling was conducted along all the line of contact — form Stanytsia Luhanska to Shyrokyno. In total, 30 Ukrainian localities were shelled by the Russian and Russian-led illegal military formations.

I want to pay attention on the nature of these shelling.

At around 9:00 a.m. one shell hit a kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska, where 20 children and 18 staff members were at that moment. Fortunately, children were not hurt, 3 kindergarten workers received concussions.

At around 9:50 a.m., during the shelling of Mariinka, Donetsk region, a shell hit close to a bus stop that was near a school. Two people were injured.

At around 10:30 a.m., during the shelling of Vrubivka, near Popasna, Luhansk region, a shell hit a backyard of the Vrubivka Lyceum. At that moment, there were 30 pupils and 14 teachers. Luckily, nobody was hurt. Children and teachers had to hide in basement during the shelling.

Ten residential buildings were damaged in Vrubivka. In Novozvanivka, near Popasna, a house was destroyed. A family of four lived there, including an old woman and a child. Fortunately, no one was at home.

Ten residential buildings were left without gas and electricity.

Three of our soldiers were injured and one was WIA as a result of enemy’s actions.

But as you can see, the Russian command directed a strong blow against educational facilities and residential buildings.

Civilians were the main target of the attack. It is a military crime and a clear provocation we warned about that could be a possible escalation scenario.

I am sure, that one reason of this massive provocation was yesterday’s meeting of the UN Security Council on Minsk agreements. It is a traditional tactic of the Russian side.

Every time just before the TCG meetings, Normandy format meetings, before any important international events concerning Russia-Ukraine relations there are some incidents in order to create background beneficial to the Russian side.

Yesterday morning the Russian propagandists were actively spreading fake information concerning the shelling of the kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska. They were saying it was on the temporarily occupied territory.

Presumably, they were expecting our soldiers to violate the agreements to make pretence for accusing Ukraine with attacking civilians. But they once again miscalculated and their lies were refuted.

I want to thank all our soldiers and commanders for their restraint.

Ukraine was acting within the frameworks of the agreements and procedures.

First of all, a coordination mechanism, involving OSCE SMM, was engaged according to the measures to strengthen ceasefire regime, which is dated on July 22, 2020.

Second of all, our TCG delegation addressed the OSCE TCG coordinator to initiate an urgent extraordinary meeting of the security working group and after that to hold a TCG meeting on the violations of ceasefire regime.

Also, the Minister of Defence with the Ministry of Internal Affairs involving colleagues from other agencies swiftly organised a visit for a group of journalists, including international media, to Stanytsia Luhanska, so they could see themselves that kindergarten.

As a result, the enemy received the exact opposite reaction then he had expected. Now the entire world will know who disturbs the peace in Donbas.

As of 9:00 a.m., February 18, 2022, nearly 20 shelling were reported. We engaged all the mechanism to stop it.

I want to emphasise that in these days we face with provocations — shelling, cyber attacks, threatening aviation manoeuvres, disruption of mobile communications.

Our task is not to do what the Russian Federation prompts us to do. Our task is to rebuff keeping a head cool.

Provocations do not stop. Kremlin prepares the ground for recognition of the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics according to the Georgian scenario, its realisation notwithstanding. Just to have this variant ready.

Yesterday, at around 21:40, Stanitsia Luhanska was once again shelled; gas pipeline and a residential building were damaged. Shchiastia, Popasne, Pisky were also shelled. In the occupied territories the occupational administrations intimidated people with an alleged offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

I will emphasise once more. Ukraine is strengthening its defence. We have no intentions to conduct any force actions towards the ORDLO or the Crimea. At all. We will move by the political and diplomatic way. Because there are our citizens and we will not put them in danger.

I address to the citizens of Luhansk, Donetsk, Alchevsk, Horlivka, Iasynuvata and other towns: people, do not be afraid. Ukraine is not your enemy, but those who want to defend you against Ukraine are. Do not heed rumours about some offensive operation.

At the same time, the Ukraine’s army is ready for any developing scenarios concerning defence.

About the situation along the Ukrainian borders.

Firstly, we do not confirm Russia’s statement about withdrawal of its forces. It is no happening. Forces are moving.

Secondly, we are watching the Russian forces, which are around 129 thousand men in the number. With the naval and aviation component their size is 149 thousand men.

Because of the active phase of the Russian exercises in Belarus, other regions and in the Black Sea, the great bulk of forces have been already mustered. We expect another several thousand men to be deployed.

We expect three ships to enter the Black Sea.

Thirdly, along with the army exercises, the Rosgvardia exercises “Zaslon-2022” are being conducted. We are monitoring that as well.

Our intelligence sees all the manoeuvres that pose a potential threat to Ukraine. Every plane, helicopter or tank unit. We are constantly in touch with our partners.

Different dates of some events could be heard. All these scenarios were calculated and the Ukraine’s army is ready for them.

We in no way lessen the threat, but the possibility of full-scale escalation we deem as small.

We focus on maximizing our readiness. The AFU exercises “Snowstorm-2020” are taking place in different regions. The bodies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs have conducted a number of exercises. The SSU is constantly training.

The Territorial Defence Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are being deployed.

Our main task is to prepare locations in the regions. We are working along with the local authorities. Some regions and towns have adopted their programmes to assist the TDF.

I thank them for their support. And I ask those local authorities who are hesitating in providing and equipping places for allocation to make choice faster, because the territorial defence is a common issue of army and communities.

About international space

So far, we have received more than 2,000 tons of aid in the form of modern weapons, ammunition and armour. We received 31 planes. And this is not the end.

Last time I talked about Javelins and NLAWs. Now we have Stingers. All models of defensive weapons are already in the army. Our soldiers have already mastered this arsenal.

There is a dialogue on different things. Not just about weapons, but about various tools of de-escalation.

For example, this Monday I held a very important conversation with my Belarusian colleague, Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin.

I have said many times and I do not tire of repeating: Belarus is a special country for us, the Belarusian people are very close to us. There can be no aggression against Belarus on the part of Ukraine. Descendants will curse us for that. That is why I am in favour of dialogue and confidence-building between the defence agencies.

I am grateful to Minister Khrenin for sharing this approach. During the conversation, we immediately agreed on a number of practical steps.

In particular, the Ukrainian defence attaché visited Belarus the day after our dialogue. On February 16, we hosted a Belarusian defence attaché in the Rivne region who observed our exercises. Tomorrow, February 19, our attaché is invited to the final events of the Russian-Belarusian exercise “Allied Resolve — 2022”.

In addition to co-operation at the attaché level, we agreed with our Belarusian colleague to establish permanent channels of communication at the level of the Chiefs of Staff and directly at the level of ministers. To be able to quickly get in touch and get information, eliminate any incident.

For example, if intelligence sees the movement of a long-range weapon or, say, the construction of a pontoon near our border. So we can get answers. I am convinced that this is important for maintaining and strengthening good neighbourly relations.

Yesterday, I took part in a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of NATO states defence ministers. The Georgian Defence Minister was also invited there.

The meeting took place at the time of situation aggravation in the east, I informed my colleagues about the shelling of the kindergarten.

I also shared our assessments of the security situation, as well as our expectations of the Alliance. This is a very important dialogue, and I hope that Ukraine will have the opportunity not only to continue it at the NATO summit in Madrid, but also to get clear answers about the prospects for integration.

Now I would like to dwell on an issue that is of fundamental importance for our defence.

For the second time in a year, the Russian Federation is drawing a significant number of troops to Ukraine’s borders and demonstratively threatens with escalation. At the international level, Moscow is issuing deliberately unacceptable ultimatums, such as dismantling NATO in 14 countries.

This also applies to the demands to almost completely disarm the three friendly Baltic countries and increase the pressure on Poland. As you can see, conditions have changed not only for Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called the current situation a “new norm”.

It is not possible to mobilize against aggression within a short period time. It is not enough.

We have a particular task: to ensure the systemic development of the defence sector of Ukraine in the face of a constant external threat, including military, informational, economic, energy, political, humanitarian, cyber and other sanctions against our state.

Since this pressure method has already been applied, we must assume that it will continue. The Kremlin can withdraw troops, deploy them again, or permanently place them along our borders

.

That is why we must act on this threat as a constant one.

It means that we need a systemic response. Strategic response, based on the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian economy. They are the foundation of our state.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi has issued two essential decrees laying the groundwork for this systemic response.

Firstly, a decision has been taken to increase the size of our army by 100.000 over four years, until 2025.

Secondly, we received an impulse to move towards a professional, highly motivated army. In particular, we propose a system of intensive military training for citizens that will allow for the abolition of conscription in 2024. In addition, it will enable the launching of a programme of comprehensive military training for citizens to provide a reserve for both the reserve forces and the army.

Thirdly, the decree of February 1 made it clear that the defence budget for 2023 must be at least 3 per cent of GDP. So that should be considered, beginning with the formulation of the budget resolution.

The goal is also to increase the salary of our soldiers by 30 per cent as of March 1. The relevant drafts have been already registered in Parliament. Therefore, I ask for their support.

These are the important steps to make the army an attractive employer. We are now working on a set of solutions. They relate to a personnel and housing reform and provide maximum incentives to those who sign long-term contracts. Our goal is to make people WANT to serve in the army for at least ten years because this is a period of opportunity.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and especially the Special Committee, for supporting our defenders.

The Committee, led by Oleksandr Zavitnevych, with representatives of different factions, carried out excellent work. The Committee agreed on a consolidated three-year plan for closed defence procurement.

It is the first time under the new law on defence procurement and it allows the MoD to work more effectively with long-term projects. Now matter depends on the NSDC and the Cabinet of Ministers.

I also want to thank the Ukrainian Parliament for starting draft legislation 4210. It includes several significant changes that will improve the quality of defence governance and bring our practice closer to better standards by implementing NATO principles.

And in conclusion.

A week ago, it was 100 days since my assignment at the office. I have published a report on the preliminary results.

We are gradually moving to the next stage: from the crisis management to the strategic development.

I have presented to the President of Ukraine the main positions of our work plan for 2022, which is a part of a set of measures for the next four years. I am ready to present it at any time.

They are based on the five strategic goals for the Defence Force Development as defined in the Strategic Defence Bulletin.

● ensuring effective defence management;

● formation of quality human capital;

● achieving a high level of capability through the rearmament and development of military equipment; improve military infrastructure, logistics, reserves, and others;

● integrating the defence forces’ operational capabilities to achieve a de-facto level of compliance with the NATO requirements.

We must optimize all processes during the year to eliminate what can slow down this process. Launch the personnel reform. Start the process of eliminating the accommodation waiting list. Switch to a comprehensive defence model and give a boost to our defence industry.

To make the Army the driver of the modernization of the whole country.

I am sure that this approach will make it easier for us to direct assistance to the priority areas and form alliances.

Ukraine will become a donor to the security of all Europe. Many already understand this.

Our army is mentally ready to stop any enemy. It is a strategic advantage of the country. That potential, which would require legislative changes, in particular, must be fully exploited.

Once again, I thank Parliament for its support. I look forward to it in the future.

Thank you for your attention.

On this occasion, I greet our Polish friends and partners in this hall today. I appreciate your support! For our and your freedom!!

Glory to Ukraine!