Many years of Russian turncoat activity, both in Kyiv and in the Crimea, provided Moscow with the confidence that Ukraine would not dare resist the invaders at the beginning of the Crimean campaign. It took a set of measures from open psychological pressure on the top state leadership to actions from inside via multiple channels of influence, especially the key politicians. That deprived them of the opportunity to make adequate decisions and brought the power in Ukraine to a standstill. Authors of the paper “Russian Octopus in Action: Case “Ukraine” tell about the operations to destroy the Ukrainian army.
According to witnesses in the case of treason against former Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovych, the destruction of the Ukrainian Navy began after he had won the elections. In particular, in 2010, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) experienced personnel elimination. One month after Admiral Tenyukh was dismissed, Commander of the Navy, the Deputy Commander of the Ukrainian Navy, Major General Oleksandr Ostrovsky, who was in charge of the Coast Guard, left, too. He refused to sign an order to liquidate some elite units of the Navy’s coastal defence stationed in the Crimea.
After that, the commanders of the coastal defence forces battalions, as well as the Ukrainian Navy ships’ commanders, were replaced. There was no coincidence that all these changes happened in the Crimea and Sevastopol. Pro-Ukrainian officers and commanders were replaced by pro-Russian ones. The Armed Forces staff in the Crimea was also changed. Due to this, the Navy reported on 14 October 2013, that there was no one recruit since all the ships and vessels were completed by contractors, mostly from the Crimea.
The Commander of the Ukrainian Navy in 2014-2016, Vice Admiral Serhiy Haiduk, notes that during the occupation of the Crimea, 80% of the Navy staff consisted of Sevastopol and the Crimea natives. Taking into account Russia’s information and propaganda dominance in the Crimea, such a choice paved the way for the loss of the Crimea. It weakened the potential resistance to the hybrid-type occupation as much as possible. The long-term systemic gains of the Russian secret services and its local agents were effectively used by Russia in 2014 when H-hour came.
Vice Admiral Serhiy Haiduk states, that “there were many examples when unit commanders, such as of the Feodosiya Marine Battalion, were told bluntly: ‘you live at such an address, you have a wife at home, a child goes to such a school, aren’t you afraid for your family? Make the right decision’.”
The “right decision” meant moving to Russia. That provided the aggressor with the desired effect. Taking into account the territorial principle of Ukraine’s Armed Forces manning, only 3,991 servicemen out of 13,468 personnel in the Crimea remained true to their oath, having refused to defect to the enemy’s side.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine collapse
As of 1 March 2014, the internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Crimea amounted to 2,489 militaries. 1,398 militaries went to the mainland, i.e. the share of those who defected to Russia’s side reached 44%.
These figures are mostly the result of staff policy at the central government level, as well as the long-standing work of the Russian turncoat in the Crimea and Kyiv. Borys Babin, a former representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, points to the little-known decision of the Ukrainian authorities under Viktor Yanukovych regarding some SBU (Secret Service of Ukraine, SSU) units functioning. This decision cancelled the SBU Military Counterintelligence Inter-regional Office in the Crimea and Sevastopol in October-November 2013, even before the Revolution of Dignity. This department was responsible for the Armed Forces state in the Crimea and, accordingly, for their ability to counteract bribery and provocations of Russians.
Plenty of information from studying the destructive effects on the Armed Forces of Ukraine defence ability was published during the Temporary Commission of Inquiry of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine work, established to investigate the thefts in the Armed Forces and undermine the state’s defence capabilities from 2004 to 2017. The period of Yanukovych’s presidency (2010-2014) was one of the most complicated for the Armed Forces functioning. During it the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine Heads and the Armed Forces Command ignored the basic principles of martial arts theory and the experience of previously achieved results of army reforms.
The first stage of this period (2010-2011) was the disbandment of the Joint Operational Command and the Armed Forces Support Forces Command. That practically destroyed the operational and strategic level of the Armed Forces structure and disrupted the state defence management.
The Joint Operational Command absence was one of the main problems in the defence planning of the territorial integrity of Ukraine in 2014. The Armed Forces lost a troop command that would be able to form an interspecies group of troops, provide its training, plan an operation, and conduct it successfully.
The research established that, at the beginning of 2014, the mobility of the Armed Forces of Ukraine military groups at the operational and strategic level was collapsed completely. In 2014, the General Staff had to hastily form the so-called ATO headquarters on the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The Commission of Experts concluded that the Armed Forces Support Command disbandment led to the loss of central management of the army’s comprehensive security system during peacetime and the preparation and conduction of operations. The lack of the logistics and operational support system central management caused the disorder in troops’ supply. That prompted the development of the volunteer movement during the initial period of the 2014 war.
During the second stage (2012), the state air defence system, the revision of the military-administrative division of the territory of Ukraine, and unjustified changes in the mobilisation and planning system took place. The transfer of the Armed Forces to the so-called three-tier management system at that period created the basis for a critical imbalance of the command and control system in operations.
The separate operational command establishment in the Crimea was disruptive in itself. That obstructed the functioning of unified air defence, territorial defence and mobilisation management systems. It also made the Armed Forces commanders’ influence on target tasks implementation impossible.
Destruction of a single army control centre
The third stage (2013-2014) completed the disbandment of army corps as the basis of the Armed Forces structure’s operational and tactical levels. During it, the opponents of defence planning tried to divide the Armed Forces artificially into three separate commands.
During Yanukovych’s presidency, the Ministry of Defence management and the General Staff unconditionally implemented the decisions “from above,” which made a single command and control centre functioning impossible.
The southern control zone was located in the Crimea. And the militaries there were subordinated not to the Armed Forces command but to the Navy command. The eastern area corresponds with the territory that Russian propaganda calls “Novorossiya.” The majority of the Armed Forces military units left it in the second half of the 2000s. So, it became easy prey for illegal armed rebels, and then for Russian Armed Forces regular units.
Two units in Lubny and Artemivsk were disbanded. The three brigades were distanced from 200 to 500 km from each other (in Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions), which did not allow management of at least some defence in the eastern direction.
Plenty of weapons and military equipment were stored in warehouses in Artemivsk amid such demilitarisation. According to the Kremlin’s plan, it was to be a source of armament for Russia’s intelligence, sabotage groups and the illegal armed groups they formed, and thus, to reinforce Russia’s narrative of a “civil war..
“Russian Octopus in action: Case “Ukraine,” Authors’ group, under the supervision of Mikhailo Honchar.
Based on the research of the expert group under the auspices of the Global Studies Centre “Strategy XXI” with the support of “Vidrodzhennya” International Foundation.