What to expect from the replacement of the Defense Ministry head? 

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2014/10/13 • Politics

Article by: Yana Polyanska

Nominated by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the new Minister of Defense may be Stepan Poltorak, who has been head of the Ukrainian National Guard up until now. According to Poroshenko, his choice was guided by the reviews made by generals, battalion commanders and regular soldiers who had worked with Poltorak. Valeriy Heletey, whose resignation was approved by the President earlier, stated on Monday during his farewell briefing that he had done his duty and had not committed any significant errors. Meanwhile National Guard fighters came to protest to the President’s Administration: they demand demobilization from the Defense Ministry. What to expect from the new Defense Minister and what does Valery Heletey leave the post with? 

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko was governed by Stepan Poltorak’s authority when nominating him as the new Defense Minister. He stated this during a meeting with Colonel General Poltorak, noting that National Guard fighters feel very comfortable and protected under Poltorak’s leadership.

“The most important thing for me was your professional and patriotic position, your manner, your assertive steps to practically rebuild the National Guard system from scratch, discipline among the troops, strong military spirit, the ability to provide equipment, personal items, establishment and everything else,” Poroshenko noted.

In response, Stepan Poltorak assured the President that he was aware of the responsibility that henceforth lay on his shoulders, and that he knew what to do further in the sphere of national defense.

“I understand very well what steps have to be done, and I accept the offer. I would like to say that a strong army is what guarantees peace. Therefore we have to do it all together. And I will do everything possible for our army to really be durable, swift, operative, prepared and technologically equipped,” he assured.

Heletey: I was appointed to fight bandits and terrorism 

Stepan Poltorak, after his appointment, will continue the work of Valery Heletey, who occupied the post since April 2014. When talking to the journalists already after Poroshenko had signed his resignation, Heletey said: on October 9 he had met with the President in the ATO zone and reported how prepared the Ukrainian army was for the winter. After this, the military official made the appropriate statement that he was prepared to give up his seat to the next Minister to “carry out other, no less important, tasks” at another post.

Heletey noted that Petro Poroshenko, when he had appointed him Minister, had made him responsible to fight crime, terrorism, separatism, organized gang formations. According to him, he had done his duty, and wished good luck to the future head.

Heletey: there were no military errors in the Ilovaysk operation

When talking to the press, Heletey expressed his conviction: he had done everything possible as Minister. He emphasized that he is frequently reproached for the losses the Ukrainian army suffered during the operation which became infamously known as the ‘Ilovaysk cauldron.’ However, he assured, there “were no serious errors” then, and the public will understand this after the appropriate investigation. According to Heletey, it is thanks to Ilovaysk that the Russian army did not advance towards Luhansk.

“First and foremost we stopped the tank advances near Luhansk, the ones that were near Luhansk, near Savur-Mohyla, and everything that happened during the exit from Ilovaysk. That flow of dead Russian servicemen was what stopped Putin’s aggression,” he noted, when concluding his leadership of the Defense Ministry.

Men in uniform demand demobilization from Poroshenko

Meanwhile young men in military uniforms are gathering near the President’s Administration, those who do not see the Defense Ministry’s work under Valery Heletey’s leadership in such a positive light. According to them, they are temporary National Guard servicemen who are tired of waiting for demobilization to happen, and who came to demand it of the Head of State. One of them lamented to Radio Liberty that members of the Parliament do not send their children to the ATO, but his friends and him are forced to live on the front line for half a year without any protection on part of the government.

“The young ones are not being summoned, they made us stay to serve. We serve for 164 UAH per month, none of them consider us people,” says he.

Administration representatives have already come out to the young men. One of them proposed to the men not to protect the Administration, but send their leaders as spokespeople, as, according to him, “conflict will not yield any results.”

Expert: there should be full-scale human resource rotation in the Defense Ministry

According to military expert Hryhory Perepelytsia, the dissent among the servicemen is just one point from a whole list of problems which slow down the Ukrainian army. He notes that Stepan Poltorak will have to carry out full-scale rotation of the leadership in the Defense Ministry, and carry out lustration within the team, for it to “be able to act adequately in conditions of war.” Besides, he will have to order new weaponry and military equipment, for the material and technical provision to be at the appropriate level.

He also expressed the opinion that the previous three Defense Ministers, Valery Helety, Mykhaylo Koval and Ihor Teniukh, “did not do their duty.” Citing Perepelytsia, “some of them just gave up Ukrainian territory,” and the expert hopes that the new Minister will not allow another annexation.

“However, I think this changes nothing. Obviously, the President has a very small number of people, so he cannot appoint a single competent army general,” he concluded.

Stepan Poltorak has been head of the National Guard of Ukraine since April 2014, and before than, since February 2014, he has been head of the Internal Army of the Ukrainian MIA. He has been in the service for over 30 years.

Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
Source: Radio Liberty

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