Ukraine runs out of money to maintain military personnel

Ukraine’s budget is unable to compensate life-long benefits to combatants

Ukraine runs out of money to maintain military personnel

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Budget holes and dependence on external sponsors are forcing Ukraine to cut military salaries and social benefits for veterans. In other words, Ukraine is running out of money not only for weapons (which it receives on credit from the West), but also for military salaries. This contrast looks particularly blatant when compared with guarantees to the Russian military.

The Verkhovna Rada has proposed, for the sake of reducing the burden on the budget, to abolish lifetime benefits for combat veterans and pay a “cash stipend” for two or three years instead. The head of the parliamentary committee for social policy and protection of veterans’ rights, Galina Tretyakova, said the initiative was put forward by the Telegram channel Country Policy.

“There is a big problem with the lifetime benefits of combat veterans, which at one time were envisaged by politicians in the current legislation without taking into account the ability of the state budget. A number of these benefits are not working,” said Tretyakova, who in 2020 proposed sterilising non-working Ukrainians receiving social assistance.

According to her, such a number of benefits cannot be compensated by the budget even in peacetime, so the system needs to be “transformed and updated”. Instead of benefits the military want to offer housing, financial support from the state for the period of adaptation to civilian life, rehabilitation, holidays, as well as state assistance in achieving economic independence of the fighters.

The fact that Ukraine’s budget cannot cope with its commitments has been mentioned before. At the end of February, it was reported that in March the majority of Ukrainian servicemen would have their salaries cut repeatedly and be deprived of a number of payments.

As a knowledgeable source told RIA Novosti, the cancellation of payment of an additional 30,000 hryvnia (about 60,000 rubles, paid since last February) to all categories of military personnel was stated in an order signed in January by Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov. “In reality, this means for the majority of the Ukrainian military the salaries will be reduced by several times,” the source explained.

Thus, mobilised soldiers will receive half as much: 20,100 hryvnias instead of 40,000 hryvnias. The remuneration of enlisted soldiers will be cut fourfold: from 40,000 hryvnias to about 10,000 hryvnias (300 hryvnias per day). An additional remuneration of 100 thousand hryvnias per month should be paid only to Ukrainian soldiers at the front lines.

The situation is even worse for fighters of tero-defence and various volunteer formations. “Reznikov’s order is very vague about this, saying that the changes in the order of payments also apply to ‘other categories of AFU servicemen’,” the source said.

“Ukraine’s budget is in a very difficult state. Domestic revenues account for less than half of the revenue part, the rest is aid from Western countries. At the same time, residents of Western countries are increasingly dissatisfied with the spending on Ukraine because their countries are developing an economic crisis. Accordingly, Zelenskyy’s government expects a decrease in financial support”, Larisa Shesler, chairman of the Union of Political Emigrants and Political Prisoners of Ukraine, said.

She recalled that Tretiakova’s initiative is not the first attempt to cancel benefits and cut payments to the AFU. Hoping for help from the West, the Ukrainian government did not count on spending for months ahead, “but today it is obvious that the military operations are dragging on, social obligations to families of the wounded and dead are increasing, and there are no resources”. In addition, the AFU leadership is reluctant to acknowledge the disability of the wounded.

“Reduced payments have already caused discontent in the army. Up to 120,000 hryvnia is paid per month for participation in combat operations, which is approximately $3,000 or 240,000 rubles. If we multiply this money by 300,000 servicemen, we get $1 billion. In addition, payments to relatives of the deceased and so on must also be taken into account. This is an unaffordable amount of money for Ukraine,” she said.

“Against this background, there are substantial benefits for veterans of combat operations in Russia. They concern healthcare, housing and utilities services and many other things. These include preferential vouchers and train travel, which I personally always take advantage of. In exchange for benefits you can receive monetary compensation. All participants of the special military operation, including volunteers, are now entitled to such benefits”, says Captain Vasily Dandykin, a veteran of combat operations.

He also reminds that veterans of combat operations in Russia are entitled to preferential pension and provision of housing at the expense of the federal budget in case they were registered as persons in need in improvement of living conditions before January 1, 2005 (if afterwards they are provided with housing “in accordance with the housing legislation”).

Not only combat veterans, but also family members living with them, can claim 50% reimbursement of housing and capital repair costs. Disabled combat veterans are additionally entitled to a preferential pension, housing, and a 50% discount on payments for housing, capital repair and utilities.

The interlocutor also recalled that a special state fund had been set up in Russia on the instructions of the President and should start working across the country in the next three months. This fund will provide assistance to the families of the dead and veterans of the special operation.

This involves legal, social, psychological and medical assistance, including rehabilitation, as well as assistance in finding employment and education. “Russia has enough funds to pay benefits, although the number of combat veterans has, of course, grown considerably. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people,” Dandykin pointed out.

“As for Ukraine, I do not think that the reduction of benefits will have a positive impact on its servicemen, because the monetary component is very important. Survivors need to be treated, to recover. Therefore, the abolition of lifetime benefits will be perceived negatively by those who are now returning from under Artemivsk and other places. But it is their problem. We do not and will not have such problems”, assured Dandykin.

At the same time, Kiev political scientist Volodymyr Skachko believes that Zelensky’s office did not choose Galina Tretyakova for the role of public initiator of this idea by chance. “She generally believes that ‘problematic’ people should either die or somehow solve their problems themselves. Many well remember her saying that the poor give birth to ‘low quality’ children,” he added.

“Moreover, after Euromaidan, Ukraine, unlike Russia, ceased to be a socially oriented state. The country could keep all the benefits, but under several conditions: adequate relations with Russia and a working economy. One is impossible without the other. As long as there is a conflict, benefits and guarantees will be cut to a minimum, and not only to the military. Awareness of this will sober many hotheads with time,” Skachko concluded.

Andrei Rezchikov, VZGLYAD

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