Tensions between Ukraine and Russia show no signs of abating, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was unsparing when he recently criticized Russia for destabilizing his country.
Speaking on March 25 at a government meeting marking the creation of the Ukrainian Security Service, or SBU, Poroshenko said that of the more than 200 terrorist attacks prevented by Ukraine in 2015, most were prepared in Russia. The president said such attacks were meant to to destabilize the political situation in the country and were planned for Kiev, Odessa, Nikolaev, Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Kharkiv, and Lviv -- the nation's major cities and regions.
"The attacks ... are a key element of the hybrid war that is now being waged against our country," Poroshenko stressed. Ukrainian security services are successfully countering such attacks "by being effective in the information campaign and presenting to society sufficiently convincing evidence of the effectiveness of their work. The Ukrainian people today have something to thank the SBU for," Poroshenko summed up.
A Stronger Military
Meanwhile, two years of armed conflict with Russian-backed rebels in their country's east have begun to transform the Ukrainian military into a stronger and more professional armed force. Obozrevatel.ua looked at several new weapons in a recent report that cited improvements, upgrades, and acquisitions by Ukraine's armed forces.
When major hostilities broke out in 2014 in the Donbas, Ukraine's embattled eastern region, Ukrainian artillery and military units found themselves outmatched by rebels armed with the Russian-made Grad multiple launch rocket system, which, first developed by the Soviets decades ago, is the most widespread weapon of this kind in use throughout the world. Today, the answer to the army's needs is the "Verba," or Willow, a domestically-produced 122 mm multiple rocket launcher.
According to the report, the biggest differences in the new system, developed by the Kharkiv Morozov Design Bureau, are the automation of combat use; the introduction of modern navigation systems; and the chassis, changed to the domestically-produced KrAZ heavy trucks. The report notes that in earlier multiple launch rocket systems, the launcher was loaded manually, whereas Verba automates the process with special charging machines, increasing the re-armament rate sevenfold. The report adds that switching to Ukrainian KrAz truck beds not only ends system dependency on Russian-made Ural cars, but also significantly increases the vehicle's terrain navigation capabilities.
Additionally, Obozrevatel.ua notes that the rocket launcher can equip the domestically-developed Raptor armored truck, which is built on the KrAz chassis. According to Roman Romanov, General Director of Ukroboronprom, the nation's main defense conglomerate, "the time has come to leave the Soviet past behind and to start looking to the future. Willow is new technology that can be supplied to the military on an industrial scale."
Obozrevatel.ua's report also covered the most widespread weapon in the ongoing conflict -- the semi-automatic descendants of the ubiquitous AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle. Ukraine's defense sector wants small-arms procurements to be domestic. The varied Kalashnikovs in Ukrainian storage since Soviet days fall far short of modern battlefield requirements. According to the report, on the front lines fighters are forced to improvise upgrades to their Kalashnikovs, mounting modern sights, anatomical handles, and other improvements, making the weapon more convenient and saving precious seconds of combat that can prove absolutely crucial.
Creation of a new weapon was undertaken by the experts from InterProInvest, a design enterprise that decided to modify the existing Kalashnikov. They ended up creating a new type of small arm, leaving only the barrel and the receiver from the original weapon. The main feature of what they dubbed the Maluk semi-automatic gun is the use of a forward-looking bullpup layout, which significantly reduces the size of the weapon and has a positive effect on its balancing, allowing the fighter to maintain accurate automatic fire. This design is already incorporated into a number of rifles made in the United Kingdom, France, Israel, and Austria. The Maluk has already passed military tests, grading out with the highest scores on most testing parameters. The new weapon is now recommended for adoption by the Ukrainian special forces, and its serial production has been taken on by Ukroboronprom.
Ultimately, it is not just the weapons, old or new, that will determine the success of Ukraine's military in its struggles against Russian-backed rebels. That success will depend on raising professional standards for all fighting units, and on incorporating new tactics, techniques, and procedures that would allow for the waging of a modern warfare, where older forms of fighting coexist with state-of-the-art communications, observation, and command and control technologies.