On 1 February, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to stay calm and united as the government and leaders around the world pursue efforts to ward off a possible invasion by Russia.
On the same day, Zelenskyy signed the decree “On priority measures to strengthen the defense capabilities of the state, increase the attractiveness of military service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the gradual transition to a professional army.”
The decree increases the size of Ukraine’s armed forces by 100,000 troops over three years and raises soldiers’ salaries, ending conscription starting 1 January 2024, in order to finish the reform of Ukraine’s army towards a professional army.
The president also proposes to introduce an intensive system of military training as a possible alternative form of military service.
Currently, about 90% of Ukrainian military personnel are professional contract-based servicemen while only 10% are annually conscripted servicemen, according to Defense Minister Serhiy Reznikov. However, salary, accommodation, and other conditions of professional military service in Ukraine were not satisfactory, hardly reaching the country’s average.
In particular, the decree signed by the president:
- ends compulsory conscription;
- increases payments to servicemen to at least three minimum salaries (currently, this is UAH 19500, or $687);
- develops housing for servicemen, veterans, and members of their families;
- increases the term of contracts;
- introduces a career advancement system for officers;
- increases the number of the Armed Forces during three years by 100,000 professional employees (currently, the Ukrainian Army numbers 250,000 servicemen);
- creates an additional 20 brigades.
Zelenskyy also said that Ukrainians should count on themselves to defend Ukraine:
“Our country has many friends, we are grateful to them for that, but friends have their homeland. Don’t forget that. So no one will build Ukraine instead of us, no one instead of us will defend Ukraine, will save Ukraine. We have to rely only on ourselves.“