In case of invasion, Ukrainians prepare: Everyone will be taught military affairs in Lviv

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The law on national resistance will come into force 1 January, which should motivate the civilian population to study military affairs and join the defense of the state if necessary.

The Washington Post reported Saturday 4 December that American intelligence officials had uncovered detailed plans for a January 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia has already been occupying some Ukrainian territories, including most directly the entire Crimean peninsula, since 2014 but for the second time this year, rumors of new onslaught and an increased troop build-up on at the border have picked up pace.

In response to the threat, Ukraine is preparing its civil defenses in a variety of ways. Lviv Now talked to Vitalii Zahainyi, Deputy Head of the Lviv Regional State Administration, who will now be responsible for this citizen readiness, about what this law will change, how the Lviv region is preparing for its implementation, and how local residents will be able to defend themselves.

What will the law on national resistance change?

«This law introduces the concept of defense, and other related concepts in the legal field. It provides for the formation of a network of territorial defense units. These units will consist of brigades and battalions. There should be one brigade in the Lviv region, and it will consist of seven battalions. They will be in each of the seven districts of the region. But in case of exacerbations, we will consider creating another brigade in Lviv. The law provides for the creation of additional brigades in cities with more than 900,000 inhabitants. 

«The main thing in this law is that it provides for the possibility of involving civilians in military affairs, not only those who put on uniforms and signed a contract. We have no other option, our country is not rich enough to keep a half-million army, but we are a forty-million country that can organize a population against the enemy. It’s like a warning.

«This works in the Baltic countries, in Estonia, which has a population of 1.2 million. It cannot oppose Russia with its army, but they have a good system of territorial defense, like Latvia, Lithuania, and a small Israel.

«It is difficult to fight a country where there is an organised and informed population. After all, territorial defense is an organized guerrilla movement in the event of war.

«This law came about as a result of the occupation, the annexation of Crimea, due to the awareness of the threat posed by Russia. It is the result of assessing our strengths and capabilities, as well as studying the experience of other countries in similar situations. Now, it is a difficult task to start implementing it. But the situation was almost the same when in 2014-15 a question of changing the territorial structure emerged.» 

Read also: Veterans of the war on Donbas push for eviction of Russian consulate from Lviv

What does it take to form these brigades? 

«The Law of Ukraine on the State Budget provides funds to support these military formations. They need material and technical support, the regional state administration and local self-government bodies can help with this. 

«We are now seeking premises for units that will manage the brigade and premises for battalion management. The Drohobych City Council has already decided to allocate communal property for the battalion. Zolochiv city council has an intention to allocate premises in its territorial community [administrative unit equal to the city area and neighbouring villages]. Lviv hasn’t yet found the premises. This mustn’t be a simple office space, it won’t fit the military. There should be a plaz [square for military training], enough space for logistics. There are objects of communal property, and also state-owned objects, such as the penitentiary service, for example, the premises of the former colonies could be suitable.

«The brigade will have a management staff of 85 people. A separate battalion consists of 47 people. The management staff will carry out information work in the direction of national-patriotic education. They will take care of material and technical equipment, training, and will work with reservists, involved in these formations.»

How much money is needed?

«Now, I can’t talk about it specifically. The main source is the state budget. Local councils can help, for example, by leasing their property.»

Read also: Lviv needs $130,000 USD to arrange the territorial defence in case of Russian invasion

What else is needed for this law to work?

«It takes a lot of effort for this law to work. The military personnel have the task to go to the masses, to go on television to educational institutions, to the people and to explain to them the tasks of territorial defense. Motivate people to learn to shoot, learn a related military specialty, armed with the experience of first aid. This means that we will spend a few hours less on social networks or in front of the TV. There are also certain powers of regional and district councils. The law states that regional and district councils:

  • contribute to the preparation and implementation of tasks of national resistance in peacetime and in special periods;
  • provide within the limits of the corresponding expenses of local budgets adequate financing of measures of territorial defense of local value;
  • contribute to the creation of voluntary formations of territorial communities;
  • ensure the livelihood of the population and the functioning of facilities within the relevant administrative-territorial unit;
  • promote participation in measures of national resistance.

Village, settlement and city councils:

  • participate in the preparation and implementation of tasks of national resistance in peacetime and in special periods;
  • ensure, within the relevant expenditures of local budgets, adequate financing of measures of national resistance of local significance and preparation of citizens of Ukraine for national resistance;
  • contribute to the creation of voluntary formations of territorial communities;
  • ensure the livelihood of the population and the functioning of infrastructure facilities within the relevant administrative-territorial unit;
  • promote participation in measures of national resistance.

It is also about information work. Do you think it will be possible to motivate a large number of people to training?

«We have 25.5 thousand people who are involved in hostilities in the east of the country. In 2014, when the Armed Forces did not yet have such strength, a serious volunteer movement was organized – people who wore uniforms took up arms. So we restrained the enemy. This law seems to have a future. 

«It is for those like you and me – for those who do not want to dedicate their lives to the army, but are willing to devote two hours a week to learn first aid, for example. This will not prevent a peaceful life.

«It is addressed to adults, responsible citizens of this country, who want to feel strong Ukrainians. This is a way to save this state. People from the age of 18 will be involved, but information activities will apply to both students and schoolchildren. 

«We are also very much counting on the fact that those 25,000 participants in hostilities can be a personnel reserve for military-patriotic education.» 

When and where to apply if someone wants to join?

«It will be necessary to apply to the management of a particular battalion. So far little is known about this, we will talk about it in three months, when the network will be deployed.» 

After the reports of a possible attack by the Russian Federation, will there be any additional inspections of shelters, work with the population on behavior in emergencies, inspections in medicine?

«Perhaps. Protective structures are a difficult issue, we were rather careless about them, most of them were abandoned, perhaps because we did not feel threatened.

The relevant department has a list of such facilities, some are maintained by local governments, some are privately owned.

«We are also setting up an alarm system and modernizing it.

In order to reach children and schoolchildren, it is necessary to mobilize local governments.

«As for medicine, we invested a lot because of the pandemic, carried out oxygen, and bought some equipment. If there was a flow of the wounded, this industry would be quickly reshaped. This was the case in 2014 in Dnipro, when the flow of wounded started.» 

Read also: The Kremlin tries «to sow despair, anger, and hatred, so that we destroy ourselves.» Expert speaks about potential Russian invasion​​

We will recall that the Verkhovna Rada passed laws №5557 «On the Fundamentals of National Resistance» and №5558 on increasing the number of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, both coming into force 1 January, 2022. The law defines the legal and organizational principles of national resistance, the basics of its preparation and conduct, the tasks and powers of the security and defense forces on national resistance. 

The law stipulates that general military training will be conducted in educational institutions – schools, universities, summer camps. The practical training will be conducted by the personnel of the Territorial Defense Forces – on the training grounds and in the training centers – we are talking about exercises with small arms, as well as medical, tactical training and more.

It will also increase the number of military personnel who will be involved. Earlier, two servicemen were engaged in territorial defense in the region, now there will be almost fifty people in the battalion.

We will also add that Ukrainian and American intelligence recently reported that Russia has concentrated more than 100 thousand of its troops near the Ukrainian border, and the foreign experts predict the potential invasion in Ukraine in the beginning of 2022. 

In its range, Russian propaganda calls these news fake and tries to blame Ukrainian defense preparations as a plan to attack Russia and the Ukrainian territories on Donbas that it occupied. As for now, the USA and Western countries are developing the plan to help Ukraine in case of invasion, in particular, cutting Russia off the SWIFT, an international network of financial transactions. 

Victoria Savitska

By Vitalii Holich

You can read a Ukrainian language version of this story here.

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