War makes some people rich
In December 2016, former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko proudly declared that during his presidency the Ukrainian Armed Forces had become «the most powerful in Europe».
P.A.Poroshenko. «The Ukrainian Armed Forces are the most powerful in Europe»
But in fact, his opinion doesn't correspond to the world-renowned Military Strength Ranking of Global Firepower which placed the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the 30th place in the world. In Europe the Ukrainian army was behind not only the leading French, British, German and Polish, but could not even surpass the Spanish and the Greek Armed Forces.
Two years later, on the eve of the military parade in honor of Independence Day Poroshenko was not so optimistic. On August 23, 2018 at the veterans' forum in Kiev he said that «the army would be one of the strongest in Europe because Ukrainians today firmly know what they are fighting for». However, by that time the Ukrainian army still remained at the end of the third ten. It should be mentioned that the Ukrainian Armed Forces despite of the poor conditions were on the 21st line of the rating when Poroshenko came to power.
The poor rating of the combat potential of the Ukrainian troops is provided not only by the Global Firepower. According to the American analytical institution RAND the organizational structure of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, mobilization system and logistic facility does not comply with modern requirements and needs significant reforming despite the improvements made since 2014. The situation in the field of recruiting can be called as catastrophic at all. According to the British BBC, in 2017-2018 the number of those who leave the army increased tenfold, and the manning level of military units was on average no more than 60%. Non-compliance with the terms of the contract, arbitrariness of commanders, beatings and extortion are the main reasons. Military personnel serving on a contractual basis also complains about low wages, lack of service or permanent accommodation, outdated weapons and military equipment, as well as poor and sometimes absent infrastructure in remote garrisons.
However, one of the main problems of the modern Ukrainian army is the extremely deplorable conditions of weapons and military equipment. In particular, it was stressed by The Military Balance. It was pointed out that samples made in the Soviet period have become outdated. The fact that Soviet weapons have developed its resources and now are not operational was also recognized by the Ukrainian military leadership. They not only recognize but actively exploit this thesis to substantiate the need for a radical re-equipment of the army. For example, the Ukrainian president at a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council devoted to the questions of the defense order for 2019, said that for the needs of the army more than six thousand weapons, including mortars, portable missile systems and armored vehicles would be procured. It's nothing but talk. In fact, all these ambitious statements are only a cover for truly enormous corruption schemes, which include not only the leaders of the Ministry of Defense, but also the top officials of the state. And this is happening in the country under warfare.
Until recently the Ukrainian political elite and oligarchs from the inner circle of Poroshenko managed to hide the scale of financial frauds in the defense sphere. But in the situation of the pre-election struggle «What is done in the night appears in the day». Materials on the criminal activity of the Poroshenko-controlled private joint-stock company the «Forge on Rybalsky» were published recently. More than $ 330 million were stolen from the budget with the direct participation of the «Forge on Rybalsky». The Ukrainian army and State Border Guard Service received military and special equipment that could not perform the declared functions. Fortunately, this fraud has not caused any human casualties, yet.
This is not the case of the incident related to the supply of the Ukrainian Armed Forces with widely advertised «Molot» mortars made in Ukraine. It is not surprising that the manufacturer of this weapon was also in the center of a corruption scandal where the name of the Ukrainian president appears.
Ukrainian Military Expert Oleg Zhdanov cited the situation:
«Let me remind that this weapon was lobbied by President Poroshenko and his close circle. Indeed, today there is no evidence that the mortar launchers have passed full state tests as it demanded for artillery systems. I emphasize that Ukraine does not have technologies of manufacturing of artillery barrels. We are trying to do this on the basis of production capacity, but we have neither the technology nor the plant that could do it».
«By the way, why do we have a plant «Mayak» which is engaged in radio electronics and manufactures an artillery mortar system «Molot».
In the summer of 2016, the year when the Ukrainian Armed Forces became «the strongest in Europe», Ukroboronprom presented a modernized 120-mm mortar launchers M120-15 «Molot» produced by the «Mayak» plant. The chief engineer Valery Sinitsyn noted that it was a fully Ukrainian development materials and components of which were also produced in Ukraine. Based on the high cost of the sample which is more than 480 thousand hryvnias ($ 18,000) one would assume that the army will receive a modern, highly efficient sample of weapons. According to the Ukroboronprom the mortar also complies with NATO standards.
Ukroboronprom message about the compliance of new weapons with NATO standards
However, during the first tests it became clear that the «Molot' has a huge amount of structural defects, is made from low-quality materials and, in general, is dangerous to use.
Anatoly Topolsky, a soldier of the 72nd separate mechanized brigade on his Facebook page told about one of the first tests of the mortar. «We expect a lot from such a device for that price and we prepared thoroughly... We dug a couple of trenches, shot from a string and hid from the mortars where it was possible. We kept watch but everything worked out. The mortar itself is a very bad copy of the Soviet 2S12 «Sani». New mortars are already quite shabby; the paint is easily erased. There were 12 mortars in the tests. 2 of them did not pass the test - one fell apart near the firing line, the second - during the first shot. Equalizing mechanism, wheel type mechanism also fell off, as well as gun barrel holder. After the fifth shot the mechanism of one of the mortars began to wedge» - noted Topolsky.
Defeckts of the «Molot» mortar
In addition, he expressed outrage that mortars were designed with sights produced in 1946. «A lot of money have been wasted right under our noses. But the most important thing is that the lives of our soldiers depends on these mortars and they have to shoot from this so called weapon» - the soldier stressed.
The situation with the scopes is one of the most vivid examples of how openly the military budget is plundered. The Ukrainian version of the mortar was to be equipped with a foreign scope MUM 706 M which supposed to become one of the most expensive parts of the weapon. But it turned out that the army received only two mortars with MUM 706 M. The rest mortars are equipped with old sights of the 1940s - the MPM-44M that the Defense Ministry transferred to the «Mayak» plant for free.
Mortar scopes made in USSR
In response to this the head of Ukroboronprom at that time Roman Romanov announced that there were no design defects. According to him it was soldiers own fault because they exploited mortars wrong. Fortunately, there were no casualties in the 72nd brigade. But military personnel of the 34th separate territorial defense battalion was less fortunate. On July 25, 2016, at the «Shyrokyi Lan» training ground in the Nikolaev region, the commander of the crew Sergey Ponomarenko died during the tests of the «Molot». According to various sources, from 8 to 10 soldiers were wounded. It was also reported that one of them died in hospital later.
Despite the tragedy and numerous reports of malfunctions of the parts of the mortars its production and supply to the troops continued. At the same time, the military command of the country and the Ukrainian leadership were fully aware of the situation as early as in 2017. This is evidenced by the report of the deputy commander of the antiterrorist operation (ATO) for the logistics colonel Yury Gudeev (in 2018 he was promoted to major general) at the ATO headquarter meeting in June 2017.
Record fragment of the transcript from the meeting of the National Security Council (for listening click the image)
In the presence of the first deputy chairmen of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Colonel-General Mikhail Koval and Oleg Gladkovsky (On March 4, 2019 he was dismissed) he stated:
«Since the beginning of 2017, 48 mortars were disabled in the area of the antiterrorist operation. 3 of these mortars were irretrievably lost, 45 mortars need to be recovered, which is 18% of the total.
In general, no one mortar has been restored during 2017. As of June 26, 2017 45 mortars must be repaired. «Mayak» plant as a manufacturer offers to restore these mortars by allocating additional money from the Ministry of Defense. Ways to solve the problem: to abandon the further purchase of mortars and to create an advanced prototype of 120mm mortar at a plant in Kramatorsk».
In response Oleg Gladkovsky actually quoted the head of Ukroboronprom saying:
«As for the 120mm mortar I want to stress again that we have enough videos of how they have been used. There are so many violations. And the proposal for the transfering it from «Mayak» to Kramatorsk is reasonable, but there is no money for it...»
Apparently, Oleg Gladkovsky considers production of artillery weapons at the former communications and recording equipment factory more economic than at the enterprise, which in 2015 produced barrels for the first mortar samples. Probably, the management of the Starokramatorsky Machine-Building Plant failed to «optimize expenses».
Need I remind that senior Gladkovsky is a business partner of Poroshenko and his son has recently become a central figure in a massive defense corruption scandal.
After the meeting in 2017 the situation has not changed significantly. «Molot» continued to produce what the English-speaking armies of NATO called the «Friendly fire». In July 2018, three soldiers were killed, nine were injured after explosion at the test site in the Rivne region. After that Poroshenko ordered to suspend the usage of the mortar and conduct an investigation. But in September a new message about the victims of the mortar rupture came from the already mentioned 72nd brigade. Fortunately, soldiers through hard experience took maximum precautionary measures and there were no casualties. By the way, it is worth noting that as expected the soldiers themselves were called guilty for the tragedy happened in July. In particular, on July 12, 2018, at the Rada Committee on National Security and Defense meeting, Igor Chepkov, the Head of the Central Research Institute of Armament and Military Equipment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, stated that 7 of the 12 morter blasts were as a result of double loading. It is noteworthythat the double-loading safe was manufactured by «Mayak» plant itself.
Against this background, I'd like to quote a less patriotic statement by the chief engineer of «Mayak». «We used materials that we knew. In some cases, for example, in a safety device, we were mistaken», said Valery Sinitsyn. At the same time, he acknowledged that neither at the factory, nor in the Ukrainian defense industry there is no fundamental science that would help in the development of new products. However, he believes that there is no «Mayak» fault in the incidents.
During the period from June 2016 to September 2018, there were 12 mortar ruptures and as a result 13 people were killed and at least 30 people were injured. Unfortunately, it is impossible to calculate how much national money has flowed into the pocket of Poroshenko and his entourage. And apparently they are not particularly worried that their bank accounts are replenished at the expense of human lives. Anyway, Ukrainian army received 280 mortatrs which cost the country's budget more than 135 million hryvnias. After the end of the investigation into the causes of the tragedy at the Rivne training ground in Ukroboronprom was stated that there was no alternative to the «Molot» mortar for the Ukrainian army. «In any case, it should have been done and should have been used in the Armed Forces of Ukraine», said Pavel Bukin, the company's general director.
It remains to hope that now the Ukrainians will really find out what they are fighting for.
Petr Poroshenko - Ukrainian president from 2014 to 2019.
Valery Sinitsyn - the chief engineer of «Mayak plant.
Yury Gudeev - Major-General, the first deputy commander of the antiterrorist operation for the logistics.
Mikhail Koval - Colonel-General, the first deputy chairman of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.
Oleg Gladkovsky - until 4 March, the first deputy chairman of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Chairman of the interdepartmental commission on the policy of military-technical cooperation and export control.
Ukroboronprom - is an association of multi-product enterprises in various sectors of the defense industry of Ukraine.
Public Joint Stock Company «Mayak» plant - is an enterprise in Obolon district of Kiev, Ukraine. It specializes in the development and manufacture of small arms and artillery weapons, as well as their components, the repair and modernization of military equipment, the production of voice alarm equipment in emergency situations of military and civil aircraft and helicopters. Until 2008 was engaged in the production of magnetic recording equipment.
Kuznya na Rybalskomu - until 2018 is an indirectly Poroshenko-controlled ship building and armament company in Kiev, Ukraine.
Starokramatorsky Machine-Building Plant - is an enterprise in Kramatorsk, Donetsk Region, Ukraine. It specializes in the production of auxiliary, precision rolling and forging and pressing equipment, material handling equipment. Since 1996 the plant has implemented and successfully operates a quality management system in accordance with the international requirements of ISO 9001.