Serhiy Nayev: "The Joint Forces should put an end to Russian aggression against Ukraine"
The Ukrainian Week discussed the first results of the Joint Forces Operation in the Donbas with its commander, Lieutenant-General Serhiy Nayev.
What changes have already occurred since the start of the Joint Forces Operation?
– Unlike the ATO, the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) operation is a military one. At the same time, it is a package of military, organisational and legal measures aimed at guaranteeing national security and defence, as well as the deterrence and repression of Russian armed aggression.
We are dealing with the occupation of certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions by a Russian aggressor that has created the bogus "DPR" and "LPR" organisations and keeps them at the point of bayonets in order to weaken and destabilise Ukraine.
In essence, the 1st and 2nd Army Corps that the occupants have formed in the territories under their control in the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions respectively are subordinated to the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces. Both corps are part of the 8th Army, whose headquarters are located in Novocherkassk (Russia). The occupation forces receive arms, ammunition, fuels and lubricants, money and food from Russian territory. It should be noted that all positions in these formations above company commander are staffed with Russian officers. This is primarily due to the Russian command's distrust of the local traitors. The units of the Russian occupation troops are also mainly made up of Russian "holidaymakers" and "volunteers" that are convicted criminals, Russian nationalists or other adventurers who have been recruited to participate in the war in Ukraine by Russian military enlistment offices.
Therefore, we are dealing with Russian armed aggression and should act accordingly. At the same time, the main task is to prevent the spread of this occupation to other territories of Ukraine.
I want to emphasise that the JFO is just one of the tools by which the state will achieve the liberation of the temporarily occupied territories in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions and restore constitutional order there. Our mission is also to protect the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of individuals and legal entities, as well as to ensure the independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
In this regard, a special regime began to operate in certain areas on 30 April. The security and defence forces, in addition to other state bodies involved in the JFO, have been granted special powers, notably to use lethal and non-lethal weapons, to detain persons and hand them over to the police, to check documents, to carry out personal inspections of citizens, their belongings and vehicles, to temporarily restrict or prohibit the movement of transport and pedestrians, to enter residential and other premises belonging to citizens, and to use for official purposes the transport and communication facilities of citizens, enterprises and organisations, except for the transport of diplomatic and international organisations.
It should be noted that the special regime was mainly introduced due to the actions of the enemy (the use of weapons, preparation and implementation of terrorist acts or sabotage) that threaten the safety of the Joint Forces (JF) and the local population. At the same time, it can be introduced when the JF are conducting intelligence operations, combat training, demining the area and other facilities, and responding to natural and man-made emergencies.
The JFO territory is divided into a safety zone and a combat area. In the safety zone, the JF commander can decide to create both restricted and prohibited areas. It is possible to get into restricted-access areas with a special permit from the JF commander or the commanders of operational tactical groups. No unauthorised persons are allowed in the forbidden areas at all – a special pass is required.
The combat area is understood to be the area along the contact line, where units of the Armed Forces, other military formations and law enforcement officers conduct combat missions to prevent the enemy from breaking through into the territory of the state. It is clear that access to such territories is only possible with special permission.
At the same time, the reason for admitting persons not involved in the operation to the JFO area may be: the residence of a person or close relatives there (confirmed by documents), if a burial place of family members is located there, the death of close relatives, property ownership in the area of operations and participation in settling the conflict, in particular the resolution of humanitarian issues, as well as diplomatic and consular activities.
How have relations between Ukrainian military and security agencies changed with the transfer of command to the Armed Forces? Has this effected the quality with which tasks are carried out?
– The need to change the ATO format was long overdue. Our military enemy is one of the most powerful armies in the world. This is a treacherous opponent that actively uses the tools of hybrid warfare. Accordingly, our actions in confronting this enemy must be rapid, timely and proactive. This can be achieved through an effective centralised management system.
Since the beginning of the JFO, the chain of command for bases and units performing combat missions in the Donbas has changed. While the ATO was previously subordinate to the Anti-Terrorist Centre of the Security Service (SBU), the JFO is currently is under the strategic command of the General Staff of the Armed Forces.
This has made it possible to increase the efficiency of the JF during operations. A major advantage of the JF is the system for coordinating the actions of the military and law enforcement officers, as well as their cooperation with the military-civilian administrations. Indeed, not only military tasks are assigned to us. The JF are also involved in law enforcement activities and conducting international cooperation, as well as humanitarian campaigns.
As an example, I can refer to the Help East strategic humanitarian initiative that I launched to incorporate the most effective practices for assisting the civilian population living in the combat area. This work was begun while I was leading Operational Command East and a task force in the ATO zone.
What issues remain unresolved or need improvement?
– Of course, during the operation, we perform a wide range of tasks. In particular, this refers to establishing defensive positions, following the procedure for admitting people to the area of operations, ensuring provisions and training reserves.
Measures to save the lives of fighters and reduce combat losses are a separate task. The soldier as a person, their fate and future have been and remain among the main priorities for us.
We continue to equip JF bases and units with modern weaponry. In particular, this refers to defensive weapons such as anti-tank missile systems, counter-tank combat systems and battlefield intelligence tools.
Separately, I would like to focus on solving humanitarian problems in the region. Citizens of Ukraine living in the Donbas, whether they are in areas around the demarcation line or the temporarily occupied territories, should be sure that the JF will do everything possible and necessary in order to restore the rule of law in these territories.
We hope that the main burden of solving economic and social problems will be taken on by professionals in the Military-Civil Administrations. This concerns renewing the full-fledged work of industrial facilities, developing horizontal economic ties, promoting small and medium-sized businesses, and reducing unemployment. It is clear that this refers to regions that are under our control.
Have you recorded any changes or activity on the part of the enemy that can be considered a kind of response to changing the format of the operation?
– The beginning of the JFO did not go unnoticed by the enemy. This was mainly seen in the intensification of measures designed to have an informational and psychological impact on the population of the temporarily occupied territories and the rest of Ukraine, as well as the international community. The main objective of the enemy's actions is to discredit not only the JF command or the military and law enforcement officers involved in the operation, but also the state leadership in general and the policy of reintegrating the temporarily occupied territories. In addition, we have noted an intensification in the operations of sabotage and reconnaissance groups around the demarcation line.
At the same time, it should be noted that the number of attacks on our positions has decreased. The enemy has realised that we will decidedly rebuff any provocation, especially those involving the shelling of peaceful settlements and checkpoints along the contact line, which primarily impacts the inhabitants of cities and villages in the Donbas.
We will not allow the enemy to undermine the process of normalising life in areas controlled by Ukraine and we will work towards this in all available ways.
The JF should put an end to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. This is the mission put before me as a commander by the president of Ukraine, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. We are performing this task. Our strength is in unity, so victory will be ours.
Serhiy Nayev was born on 30 April 1970 in Mohyliv-Podilskyi, Vinnytsia Region. In 1987-1991, he studied at the Moscow Higher Military Command School. In 1991-1993, he served as a platoon commander in the Western Group of Forces (Germany), after which he returned to Ukraine. He has been part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine since May 1993. In 1993-1999, he served in command positions from the commander of a mechanised platoon and intelligence company to Chief of Staff of a Motorised Infantry Regiment in the Carpathian Military District. In 2001, he graduated from the Ukrainian National Academy of Defence with a gold medal. From 2001 to 2003, he was the commander of a mechanised regiment under Operational Command West. From 2003 to 2006, he commanded a separate mechanised brigade under Operational Command South. In 2007, he graduated from the Operational and Strategic Faculty at the National Defence University. In 2007, he became deputy chief of staff of the 13th Army Corps of the Ukrainian Ground and in 2012 was promoted to deputy commander of the same unit. From 2015 to 2017, he was commander of Operational Command East for the Ground Forces. In 2017-2018 – Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander of the Ground Forces. On 5 March 2018, he was appointed deputy chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Since 16 March 2018, he has been Commander of the Joint Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Serhiy Zakharov is an artist from Donetsk known for his plywood caricatures of “Novorossia” leaders installed on the city streets in 2014. The installations resulted in his captivity in Donetsk that year. In his interview with The Ukrainian Week, Serhiy speaks about his complex relations with his city and the attitudes of the creative crowd to politicians