This is reported by Thomas Gibbons-Neff of The Washington Post, Censor.NET reports.
"The issues facing the Spetsnaz stem from a number of factors: a lack of institutional training and an antiquated command structure that renders units an afterthought on the front lines. According to four Spetsnaz commanders interviewed for this article, Ukrainian special forces have been underutilized since the beginning of the war - a byproduct, they say, of Soviet-era generals who have little knowledge of commanding troops meant for unconventional warfare. In turn, the decision-making process has made fighting the Russian-backed separatists in the east a bureaucratic nightmare," the author notes.
"At one point [in 2014] we had four different commands telling us what to do," said a lieutenant colonel named Andrei, an operations officer with the 1,000-strong 3rd Spetsnaz Regiment who asked that his last name be withheld because his family lives in occupied territory. With 11 years in the unit and partially Western-trained, Andrei is one of 3rd Regiment's most experienced officers.
"At the time, Andrei and the rest of 3rd Regiment - one of Ukraine's few Spetsnaz units - were spread over 400 kilometers with more than two dozen 12-man groups supporting combat operations along the front line.
"The Spetsnaz were once billed as among the country's elite troops, and as the Ukrainian military continues to restructure in the wake of its new conflict, the revival of the Spetsnaz is integral to determining Ukraine's ability to field a professional force. In a sign of the Spetsnaz's significance in the war, the U.S. military has pledged to start training at least one special forces regiment in the coming weeks alongside U.S. Army Green Berets," the reporter noted.
According to Col. Sergii Kryvonos, chief of Ukraine's special forces directorate, the Spetsnaz's difficulties began almost as soon as the war started. "We were the only ones that were ready [to go to war]," Kryvonos explained to the journalist.
"From the conflict's outset, special forces units under the Ministry of Defense were sent to buttress the defenses of key infrastructure such as warehouses and airports as the rest of the country's military was mobilized, according to Kryvonos.
"While Kryvonos has a direct line to the general staff and is a sharp advocate for the various special forces regiments under his command, his position is limited to advising.
"[Spetsnaz] were used wrong since the beginning. They escorted humanitarian aid convoys and were bodyguards for VIPs," said another lieutenant colonel on Kryvonos's staff and a special forces soldier himself, who would give only his first name, Yaroslav. He started his career as an airborne soldier before being assigned to Spetsnaz units. Now, after fighting against the well-equipped separatists and spending a peacekeeping tour with U.S. troops in Kosovo in 2013, Yaroslav said that for Ukraine's special forces to modernize, they must adopt a command model based off the United States' Special Operations Command, or SOCOM.
"It is the only way we can be effectively used," he said, explaining that without a dedicated command for special forces, Spetsnaz units are seen as adjuncts instead of assets to the generals who are responsible for Ukraine's ground forces.
"Though the Spetsnaz were treated as ad-hoc infantry units and supplemental forces for floundering front-line troops, Yaroslav added that some Spetsnaz forces were employed properly during the months prior to the first cease-fire agreements in late 2014. Spetsnaz teams, he said, were instrumental in deep reconnaissance missions into separatist-held territory and the recovery of Ukrainian pilots that were lost behind enemy lines after their aircraft was shot down in the summer of 2014.
"For now, however, with little ability to change the strategic situation on the front, special forces units such as the 3rd Spetsnaz Regiment are in a sort of purgatory, manning observation posts as they wait for the next phase of their war," the reporter wrote.
"For now, however, with little ability to change the strategic situation on the front, special forces units such as the 3rd Spetsnaz Regiment are in a sort of purgatory, manning observation posts as they wait for the next phase of their war.
"If the U.S. is going to send us equipment, don't send us second-hand stuff," said one soldier, who requested anonymity to speak critically of the vehicles.
"According to Andrei, the second-hand aid has a demoralizing effect, but he said other equipment issues need to be addressed before better vehicles and possibly even defensive weapons - something many U.S lawmakers have lobbied for - are sent to his forces.
"We need boots, uniforms and modern body armor," Andrei said, referring to the constant supply of necessities required to sustain his troops. "How are troops expected to fight without the basics?"
"Andrei added that this sentiment extends to some of the attempts the United States and other Western countries have made to train Ukrainian troops, including their special forces. One of the biggest issues that Ukraine's special forces face, Andrei noted, was the fact that there is no institution dedicated solely to training special forces in Ukraine. This is a point echoed by various Spetsnaz officers, including Kryvonos.
"It should be a requirement," Andrei stressed. "That if Spetsnaz forces are to continue to receive help from the West, then this training facility must be established."
"The last facility dedicated to training Spetsnaz troops was shuttered in 2013 as the Ukrainian military shrank, according to Andrei. Now, he said, there is no assessment and selection process for new soldiers. Instead, regiments like the 3rd receive troops that have gone through basic infantry schools. Then upon arriving to the unit, they have to be retrained. This training period, coupled with each soldier's allotted vacation time, leaves many soldiers on year-long mobilization orders with only seven months of operational time in the regiment.
"It puts strain on the unit," Andrei said, adding that with a high turnover rate and no institutionalized training regime, it's difficult to pass on lessons learned, including some of the past training administered by U.S. forces.
Full text of the article can be read here.
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