Espreso. Global

Military mobilization, ammunition production, and PMC creation: prospects on Ukrainian front. Serhiy Zgurets' column

22 December, 2023 Friday

Kyiv announces new joint arms projects with Western companies, Ukrainian soldiers about the situation in Bakhmut, and whether foreign private military companies will fight for Ukraine

Ammunition production expansion

Ukraine is increasing its arms production through joint work with Western companies, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, said yesterday. According to him, joint arms production with NATO countries is already underway. The point is that we need to increase this production. Danilov did not specify the range of such weapons, and it should be understood that joint production with NATO countries may also mean that Ukrainian companies have started to manufacture military equipment in the EU to protect themselves from Russian missile attacks - this includes the production of ammunition, drones and certain armored vehicles.

As for the projects of joint arms production in Ukraine, the officially known projects include air defense within the framework of the FrankenSAM initiative, which is the modernization of Ukrainian systems for Western missiles, with the USA transferring technologies for the modernization of Ukrainian Buk missile systems. There are also agreements with the German company Rheinmetall with the promise to start the production of Fuchs armored personnel carriers in Ukraine and then Lynx infantry fighting vehicles, and to open a center of the German company Quantum-Systems in Ukraine to localize the production of Vector UAVs. The British company BAE Systems promised to establish repair centers for M777 howitzers in Ukraine.

In the same context, just yesterday, Ukrainian Armor announced that it is now considering the possibility of producing ASCOD infantry fighting vehicles in Ukraine (this development belongs to the European branch of the American company DENIMEX). To begin with, a test batch is to be purchased, and then negotiations on localizing production will begin. A competitor in this segment is the Swedish CV-90 armored personnel carrier, but its production in Ukraine is not yet being considered, said Vladyslav Belbas, director of Ukrainian Armor. In general, there is a positive trend, but its impact on improving the situation on the battlefield and on the Ukrainian army's effectiveness can only be determined after real deliveries of certain equipment samples announced by Ukrainian officials and military equipment manufacturers today.

Bakhmut situation

In recent days, the invading Russian army has been attacking Klishchiivka almost constantly, trying to break through to the heights from the north and on the road from Ivanivske. Lieutenant Oleksiy Tarasenko, deputy commander of the 5th Assault Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said that this situation has been going on for almost a month, and the Russian troops have not given up trying to break through in this direction. "In the last few days we have seen a slight decline in the enemy's offensive potential, probably due to heavy losses of the enemy, the exhaustion of its strike units, and perhaps the Russian forces are now accumulating reserves to continue their operation, but we can see that there has been a slight stabilization at least in the area of the fifth brigade," the military explained.

Tarasenko emphasized that the weapons distribution in the operational and tactical grouping is uniformly small, meaning that everyone has a large shortage of ammunition for the main weapons: "However, when it comes to the fact that somewhere the enemy is successful in flanking a neighbor, the brigade never refuses to help. And vice versa, the last reserves here fire at the Russian assault groups to ensure overall success in that area. Here, no one pursues their personal interests, everyone works for the joint results."

According to him, the only reason for the Russian army's success is a sufficient number of infantrymen whom they can throw into battle without hesitation: "They get fresh recruits, and they don't hesitate to send them into battle right away. Groups have been reduced in size to just 2-4 people to avoid being hit by Ukrainian artillery. These super-small groups are even smaller than the Wagnerites were working with. This year they are trying to move from house to house, sneak in and out, and usually where they manage to fight, they are unable to move forward." At the same time, the Russian army is conducting aerial reconnaissance, which makes it difficult for Ukrainian soldiers to build fortifications, so they have to work mostly at night. This is also complicated by the cold weather. "People in the field are coming up with all possible methods to dig an additional trench, create an extra dugout - it is extremely important now. In fact, the main efforts are focused on this, but the defense lines and cut-off positions that were created earlier are now helping a lot," Tarasenko summarized.

Military recreation and recruiting new forces

Regarding mobilization, the soldier said that it is necessary to take off the rose-colored glasses and remember that we have driven the Russian army out of Kyiv, but this does not mean that it cannot return there. "If there is a similar situation and everything is brought to some critical point, people fighting non-stop for a year and a half are morally, psychologically, and not to mention physically unable to bear such a load every day. And they are being asked to do so as if they had just deployed, so if we don't help them with fresh, high-quality replacement, the situation will become more critical, and then we won't be able to just wait for the war to end in Kyiv. If we do not take any steps for the joint effort now, we can only wait for the enemy at home," emphasized the Ukrainian Armed Forces' 5th Assault Brigade deputy commander.

Prospects for Creating Private Military Companies in Ukraine

Andriy Kebkalo, Ukraine's first private military company founder and director of Omega Consulting Group, believes that Ukraine may not need to engage foreign private military companies because we have domestic PMCs. "There are a lot of questions, even the financing issue. If we pay for the foreign PMCs' services, they will not pay taxes to Ukraine and, frankly speaking, will not spend their salaries in Ukraine. That is, quite large sums of money leave Ukraine. If we turn to a Ukrainian private military company, at least taxes will be paid to Ukraine," Kebkalo explains.

According to Omega Consulting Group's director, experts unanimously emphasize that private military companies are banned in Ukraine, but no one can specify which law. "Foreign private military companies have been working in Ukraine, and we already have some experience. I won't say which one, but an American company worked in Ukraine for a year. It is registered in the United States (I checked) not as a private military company but as a limited liability company. This is how it should be, but this private military company worked in Ukraine for about 12 months, they opened a charity fund, raised (if I'm not mistaken) a million dollars and then left Ukraine. They said they didn't have enough money to pay salaries," emphasized the founder of the country's first private military company.

According to him, the Defense Ministry does not see any mechanism through which it can cooperate with Ukrainian PMCs: "About 2-4 months ago, about 20,000 volunteers were agreeing to come to Ukraine and thus strengthen Ukrainian military forces. I offered this proposal to some law enforcement agencies, but they refused, without explaining in detail on what grounds, they simply said that this proposal was not accepted and that was that."

"I understand that people are scared by the abbreviation - private military company. But I would like to remind you that we have no practice in Ukraine where private military companies have tried to commit some kind of rebellion or overthrow the government because that is what scares people. That is, if we recall, for example, the events of 2014, it was not PMC employees who shot at civilians, but representatives of law enforcement agencies. I don't understand why some people, authorities (not all of them), are so frightened by the abbreviation itself. Are they afraid that they are losing their monopoly on the use of force? They have already lost this monopoly a little bit, first in 2014 and then in 2022. But nothing happened, no one removed any power," Kebkalo summarized.

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