Public Forum: ‘Motivate People to Learn to Shoot.’ Lviv’s plans to organize ‘guerrilla’ defence if Russia attacks

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Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, producer of Lviv Now, held one of its regular solutions-focused public forums in its studio to find out how Lviv is preparing amid rumors of increased Russian aggression.

On 4 December, after weeks of reports of a Russian troop build-up along the Ukrainian border, the Washington Post reported from American intelligence sources detailed strategies for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine in January or February 2022. In November, the Lviv City Council began rearranging the city’s Department of emergency situations and called on the mayor to develop a comprehensive program of territorial defense. Lviv, 70km (43 miles) from Poland is about 1,000km (620 miles) west of the Russian border, more or less equidistant between that and Berlin. 

Read also: Amid Russia threats, why Ukraine matters – and what’s the real situation

Meanwhile, from Ukraine’s Rada (parliament) a Law on National Resistance comes into force on 1 January, which provides for the formation of territorial defense battalions. This includes, in particular, the involvement of the civilian population in military affairs to train people in coordinated actions in case of invasion. 

Here is the summary of our public forum asking the question: What are the possibilities of the city and region in organizing territorial defense?

According to Vitalii Zahainyi, the deputy head of Lviv Regional State Administration (LRSA), who is responsible for territorial defense in the Lviv region, the Law on National Resistance introduces the concept of territorial defense and many other related concepts into the legal field. It provides for the formation of a network of territorial defense units, which in turn provide for the formation of brigades and battalions.

In particular, the Lviv region plans to create one brigade and seven battalions. In order to form these military teams, it’s necessary to create logistics and premises.

According to Vitalii Zahainyi, his department will conduct information work here, enhance patriotic education, and take care of the composition of military formations.

In addition, the law provides for the possibility of engaging in military affairs not only those who wore uniforms and signed a contract, but also civilians.

«It is impossible to do without this law. Especially against the background of current events in the East. We are not a country rich enough to have a half-million army on contract, but a country big enough to mobilize ourselves together,» – the deputy head of LRSA said.

According to him, it takes a lot of effort for the law to work, but the first step has already been taken. Next, staff should communicate more with people, ask and motivate them to learn to shoot, and provide first aid.

Read also: Ukrainian minister of defence visited the training ground in Yavoriv

Oleksandr Koshel, commander of the Lviv Territorial Defense Battalion, explained that the Law on the Fundamentals of National Resistance, taking effect on 1 January, provides for the formation of territorial defense battalions to involve civilians in military affairs and train people to behave in a coordinated manner.

The components of this Law are territorial defense, resistance movement, and training of Ukrainian citizens.

Among the seven battalions that will be the basis of territorial defense, only one is currently training civilians during the single shooting days.

«The task of territorial defense is to teach and prepare the population for the threat posed by the enemy. We plan to train the population during shooting days, in schools and other educational institutions. In addition, informational propaganda is carried out on social networks. Of course, we need personnel and logistics. From 1 January, the staff will be increased – there will be about 50 servicemen in each territorial defense battalion and about 80 personnel in the territorial defense brigade,» – Oleksandr Koshel said.

Read more: «The Kremlin Tries to Sow Despair, Anger, and Hatred, So That We Destroy Ourselves.»

Securing training premises remains a difficult issue. Though the issue with the battalions of territorial defense in the region has been resolved, it wasn’t so for the brigades. Military have already established contacts with local authorities, and work is underway to find premises. This requires at least UAH 3.5 million ($130,000) for two years. The money will go to basic needs– the purchase of office equipment, video cameras, alarm and video surveillance systems, and fuel and lubricants to go to landfills for training with reservists.

«National resistance is all of us. The main question now is what each of us did to create national resistance. Have you signed a contract in the reserve, are you working in a government position, maybe you are helping as a volunteer, maybe you have signed a contract in the Armed Forces, and building a territorial defense? Everyone should ask themselves these questions and make a choice,» – the participant of the discussion continues.

According to him, everyone can join the territorial defense forces. By law, people who have reached the age of 18 can sign a contract in reserve. As practice shows, it’s possible to do so from 27 to 55 years (if they are officers). The contract for officers and sergeants is signed for five years. Ordinary members sign a contract for 3 years, from 27 to 57 years.

Civilians can also join. The main thing is to have the desire and be healthy. Among the requirements, certificates from a psychiatrist and narcologist are needed, as well as the confirmation from the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the absence of a criminal record.

Natalia Alekseeva, who is the manager of the executive committee of the Lviv City Council, adds that the amount of 3.5 million hryvnias is offered as co-financing from local budgets. As for the servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the main burden of their maintenance falls on the state budget.

«The law strategically changes the very concept of defense. This is the first normative act, which stipulates the involvement of communities in defense. The law has both a civilian and a military component. At the civilian level, headquarters should be set up to become key bodies of civil defense,» – Natalia Alekseeva said.

Reservist Colonel and Military Journalist Oleksandr Poroniuk emphasizes that the issue of national security and territorial defense is not new to our region. At one time, the headquarters of the Western Operational Command was located here, so territorial defense classes already took place. At that time it was the territorial defense zone №3, led by the head of Lviv Regional State Administration, while the Lviv military commissar was the chief of staff.

«We did not have military threats, but we went through difficult times – the Sknyliv tragedy [a plane crash that occurred in 2002, during the military celebration, in result of which 77 spectators died, including 28 children], winter blizzards, and floods, which involved all the resources. It is the duty of the state to be responsible for life and security. 

«Now, we have a law that is the tip of the iceberg, but there must be provisions on the defense headquarters, volunteers, their training, orders of the Minister of Defense, a representative of the security service, orders of the head of LRSA, Mayor of Lviv, district administrations. There is still a lot of work to be done in this direction,» – Oleksandr Poronyuk claims.

The law defines who exactly should be part of the Territorial Defense Headquarters and who should manage it.

«Each region is a zone of territorial defense. It must be managed by the head of either the regional or district administrations. The Chief of Staff will be the brigade commander or battalion commander. The components of the Law on the Fundamentals of National Resistance are territorial defense, the resistance movement and the preparation of citizens for national resistance. 

«The Resistance Movement is the protection of the state under occupation, a so-called guerrilla movement,» – Mykola Kurus, the head of the defense department for civil defense LOSA explained.

According to him, seen bylaws are needed for the document to take effect. They will define the procedure of recruiting volunteers and keeping the property that will be transferred to the battalion.

Read also: In case of invasion, Ukrainians prepare: everyone will be taught military affairs in Lviv

«The foundation is already there. The first half of 2022 is set to establish a territorial defense force. All battalions and brigades should be formed by the end of May. As for funding, the main burden will fall on the state budget,» – he said.

Participants in the discussion say that the law is being drafted now. The list of powers, the development of the structure and the task of territorial defense will become clearer after the law enters into force, i.e., after 1 January, 2022.

«The law stipulates that expenditures should be provided at the level of the Lviv regional and city councils and this will be a separate support program. Now, we are working on everything. In addition, the parliamentary corps initiated that in order to prepare more effectively, it is necessary to create a working group of stakeholders to develop a comprehensive work. We will finalize everything from next year,» Natalia Alekseeva says.

Mykola Kurus adds that help can be provided through programs. For example, the regional complex program «Safe Lviv Region» already operates, which includes all military units, law enforcement agencies, the Security Service, the National and Patrol Police, and the Border Guard Service.

Finally, Oleksandr Koshel noted that if the staff and capabilities of the terrorist defense forces are increased from 1 January, anyone can join the territorial defense forces. To this end, they will hold Open Days and attract as many people as possible. Of course, everything will be safe and only after the instruction of military instructors.

Olga Shveda, Photo by Anna Chistyakova

Translated by Vitalii Holich

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

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Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, which also hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people.


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