Tests involving Ukrainian Neptune missiles at a training facility in the Odesa region, 5 December 2018
The month-long official state of martial law declared in 10 Ukrainian regions on 26 November came to an end on 26 December 2018. This was announced by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko at a meeting of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC). The lieutenant-general and former deputy chief of the Ukrainian armed forces General Staff Ihor Romanenko gave an interview with RFE/RL’s Crimean department on the declaration of martial law, along with how mainland Ukraine is threatened from the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula,
General Romanenko emphasized that Russia’s attack on Ukrainian boats in the Kerch Strait on 25 November was itself reason enough to impose martial law. At the same time, the military expert admits that sufficient reason had already existed, starting with the annexation of Crimea. However, in past years Ukraine was for both subjective and objective reasons not ready for the introduction of martial law.
Ukraine is now developing salvo-fire rocket systems with high-precision warheads, as well as the Neptune programme – surface-surface and surface-ship cruise missiles.
“Its missile weapons were effectively destroyed. Furthermore, during the Yanukovych years, not only strategic types of weaponry were destroyed, but operative ones as well, with Ukraine only left with tactical weapons. For example, we still have Tochka and Tochka-U missile systems with a range of 90-120 kilometers and life-expired missiles. Following the outbreak of war, we were forced to quickly restore our defense capability and develop weapons. We are currently developing salvo-fire missile systems with high-precision warheads, as well as the Neptune programme – surface to surface and surface to ship cruise missiles, and also our Grom-2 missile programme. During the Yanukovych presidency, the Ukrainian minister of defense Mikhail Yezhel was invited to Moscow. Returning from his visit, he began to wind down the Grom-2 and other defense programmes. With all of this in view, I resigned in 2010, although I had the opportunity to serve on the General Staff for another two years before retirement.”
According to the ex-deputy head of the General Staff, the range of Ukrainian missiles currently being developed is still limited. But if they are fired from modified aircraft, limitations are effectively removed.
“At the moment Crimea was annexed, the Russians threatened to use missiles and aircraft en masse. Ukraine was at that point not ready. Our allies also pressured us to resolve the matter peacefully. However, today Ukraine is ready to move over to martial law and it was introduced precisely for security reasons, not political ones.”
According to the General Staff plans, martial law should be introduced for two or more months
“We have documentation developed for the General Staff, for example, ‘Use of Armed Forces in the Event of War.’ There are different options and levels of secrecy. These already existed in 2014. The transfer of state structures to martial law is a serious procedure which should be carried out in accordance with these plans. So according to the plans, martial law should be introduced for two or more months. In this case, martial law was limited in time and territory due to the elections. At the same time, elements that affect the civilian population like curfews, checking documents, right of entry to private property and sequestration of civilian property and so on were not put into practice. The people were not prepared for such sacrifices, and in practice, none of this was carried out. The effective martial law served only security and defense structures.”
Nevertheless, the military expert notes a positive effect of martial law’s introduction, even in this form.
General Romanenko explains that should martial law need to be introduced, the state
“will be much better prepared for it. In preparing for military hostilities, it is necessary to carry out preliminary and direct training. For the state, martial law is the preliminary preparation for the state prior to war. For example, companies within the military-industrial complex were moved to two or three-shift work, making it possible to prepare and modernize military equipment more quickly. In addition to the defense sector, law enforcement activity, as well as that of the ministry for emergencies and other departments, was improved. More funds were allocated to patrols and checks, leading to an improvement in the criminality situation in areas where martial law was in force. The main goal of having martial law was to improve the combat readiness of the security and defense sectors.”
At the same time, the expert notes that the military threat from Russia has not disappeared but continues to grow.
“The Russians have dispersed their roughly 80,000 men closer to the Ukrainian border in a number of areas. For example, they moved Iskanders to the borders at a distance that means they could reach Kyiv. We, in turn, were able to move troops forward in the same direction,” the former General Staff deputy said.
Romanenko added that Ukraine intends not only to defend itself on land but also at sea.
Now, even Putin is trying to backtrack and recognize that Ukraine has the right to have its warships pass through the Kerch Straits
“For this very reason, we are now building a naval base on the Sea of Azov. Now even the Russian president Vladimir Putin is trying to backtrack and recognize that Ukraine has the right to have its warships pass through the Kerch Straits. We on our part should use all available means of recording sound and video, record all contact between Russian crews and control points, including not only ships but aircraft too. Consequently, the movement of Ukrainian ships from the main base to a new one should be covered online for both the Ukrainian public and the international community. We, of course, do not block shipping in the Black and Azov Seas. This summer, we conducted exercises on the Azov Sea coast, practicing strikes by artillery systems, fire systems, bombers and tanks at sea targets.”
According to the Ukrainian analyst, with Crimea’s increasing militarization the threat from the peninsula is constantly increasing. In addition, it is likely that nuclear weapons are already in Crimea.
The Russians have repaired all nuclear weapon storage facilities in Crimea and transferred all three armed force elements there: air, ground and naval.
“While the Black Sea fleets level of armament used to be tactical, it has already been raised to strategic. The Russians have repaired all nuclear weapon storage facilities in Crimea and transferred all three armed force elements there: air, ground and naval. This includes submarines, new types of aircraft and helicopters, anti-aircraft missile systems, etc. Crimean Tatar representatives have explicitly reported that nuclear weapons are stationed in Crimea. I myself am 95% sure that they are already on the peninsula.”
According to Romanenko, the Russians have effectively done exactly what they have described as NATO intentions in their propaganda: creating an armed unit in NATO’s southern sphere, ready for real warfare with a “geopolitical opponent.”
“By the way, to start a full-scale war with Ukraine, the Russians would need to form a force of at least 240,000 troops. The year before last, they created a force of 250,000 men during military exercises, so the possibility of a new invasion of Ukraine from the occupied Crimea remains.”
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