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Kiev’s troops to wear German uniforms, sleep in American tents

Published time: May 13, 2014 21:55
Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of pro-Russian civilians (not in picture) at a checkpoint near the town of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine May 2, 2014 (Reuters / Baz Ratner)

Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of pro-Russian civilians (not in picture) at a checkpoint near the town of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine May 2, 2014 (Reuters / Baz Ratner)

Tents from the USA, ballistic vests from France, and linen donated by locals – the cash-strapped Ukrainian government is using all available resources to make its forces battleworthy. But supplies won't help the troops' low morale or lack of experience.

Special operations units, Omega and Vega, have received new German-made uniforms, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry announced on Tuesday.

“The troops noted that the uniforms are a well-timed and an important gift, since they are though-out in all respects,” the ministry said in a statement.

The uniforms were provided by Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenuk, judging from a thank-you note posted by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov on his Facebook page. It was not immediately clear whether Yatsenuk bought the uniforms with his personal money, allocated budget funds or received them from Germany as aid. Avakov said the uniforms were transported to Kiev’s loyalist troops deployed near Slavyansk.

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry said it will buy 24,000 bullet-proof vests for their troops with money collected through private donations. The vests are expected to arrive by the end of July. The ministry added that in addition to $10.4 million, it had also received donations of sleeping bags, linen and mattresses from the people.

Ukrainian troops, both in the army and in the interior forces, have been receiving plenty of gear lately, paid for by the government, private donations, or foreign sponsors of the Kiev regime. The US is expected to send $7 million worth of non-lethal aid to Ukraine to bolster its border guards, the Ukrainian military reported on Monday.

A Ukrainian soldier looks on at a Ukrainian checkpoint near the eastern town of Slavyansk May 2, 2014 (Reuters / Baz Ratner)

Some $3 million will be used to buy “tents, service modules, electricity generators, heaters, water and fuel tanks,” the border guard service said. The remainder will buy communication and surveillance equipment.

Earlier Washington sent barbed wire, fuel pumps, binoculars and 300,000 MRE field rations for the Ukrainian troops.

London may soon go hand in hand with its trans-Atlantic ally. The UK is currently considering a Ukrainian request for bullet-proof vests, walkie-talkies and sleeping bags, Secretary of Defense Philip Hammond said this week.

Last month Kiev said France had pledged to deliver ballistic vests as part of its humanitarian aid package for Ukraine.

Kiev is continuing its assault on Slavyansk in what it calls an anti-terrorist operation. The city is held by armed militias rejecting the capital’s rule because the current Ukrainian government came to power through an armed coup in February.

Last Sunday the confrontation between Donetsk and Lugansk regions in the East and the central authorities rose to a new level as the defiant Ukrainian provinces held referenda and voted for self-rule. Kiev and Western countries condemned the ballots, calling them illegal.

Ukrainian soldiers stand guard in front of armoured personnel carriers at a check point near the village of Malinivka, southeast of Slavyansk, in eastern Ukraine April 29, 2014 (Reuters)

Kiev’s ability to clampdown on the dissent in the East remains questionable so far, despite use of heavy weapons and aviation in the confrontation. On Monday, the Zhitomir city administration published a list of more than 100 soldiers and NCOs, who were drafted into the Ukrainian army and defected from local military units. The lists were made public to shame the deserters.

The Ukrainian government has problems with loyalty and troop morale, which it is trying to compensate for by recruiting and training pro-Maidan fighters (who were essential in the coup’s success), into a newly-formed National Guard.

The guards don’t appear to be having much success in the confrontation with armed militia in Slavyansk, partially due to lack of experience of fighting as a military unit.

But they played their part in the bloody confrontation in Mariupol last Friday, when they attacked the city’s police HQ held by protesting officers. The siege and sporadic clashes in the city streets involved armored vehicles. The day of violence left at least 20 people dead.

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