KIEV, March 12 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine’s acting defense minister described the combat readiness of the country’s armed forces as “unsatisfactory” in his report to the acting president, a source familiar with the report told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
Ukrainian media reported over the weekend that convoys of armored vehicles and military trucks had been seen in western Ukraine. The reports coincided with the deployment of troops without insignia, widely believed to be Russian military, in Ukraine’s majority ethnic Russian region of Crimea, which has announced its intention to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia.
Acting Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh denied any link between the exercises and the events in Crimea and said their aim was to determine the combat readiness of the troops.
In his report to acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, Tenyukh says the recent exercises demonstrated a “dismal degree of preparedness among servicemen and lack of military specialists, equipment and weapons” in the Ground Forces, the Air Force and the Navy.
The defense chief said only 6,000 people out of 41,000 currently serving in the armed forces “are prepared to perform combat tasks.”
According to the report, less than 20 percent of armored vehicle crews have sufficient training.
Over 70 percent of tanks and other armored fighting vehicles are “outdated Soviet-made T-64 tanks that have been in service for 30 years and more.”
“Out of 507 combat planes and 121 attack helicopters, only 15 percent are serviceable,” the report reads. “Because of poor training of crews, only 10 percent of them are capable of performing combat tasks.”
As of March 1, only four vessels of the Ukrainian Navy are battle-ready: the Navy flagship Hetman Sahaydachniy, the Ternopil anti-submarine corvette, the Slavutych command ship and the Kostiantyn Olshansky large landing ship.
“These ships are incapable of any actions threatening [Russia’s] Black Sea fleet,” the report reads.
The country’s air defense troops have also received little training because of the 2001 ban on missile launches imposed after the crash of a Russian Tu-154 passenger jet.
According to the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee, the plane with 78 people on board was downed by a wayward Ukrainian S-200 surface-to-air missile during military training exercises.
The ban was lifted in 2008, but so far only 10 percent of Air Defense Forces servicemen “have mastered the required level of theory and practice,” the report said.
Tenyukh describes the Soviet-made BM-27 Uragan and the BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launchers as “the only effective means to deter aggression and guarantee the defeat of self-defense forces and illegal armed formations in Crimea.”
However, he opposes their use because of the “high possibility of inaccurate target engagement” and “numerous potential civilian casualties.”