On the occasion of the anniversary of the Joint Forces Operation we decided to interview Lieutenant General Serhiy Nayev who is the Joint Force Commander. He is one of a few army generals who insists on keeping the society fully informed about the activities of the Joint Forces and the Ukrainian Army in particular. The Lieutenant General told us about the major combat victories of the JFO over the past year and what provocations took place on the eve of the presidential elections. The Commander spoke about the things that the Russian military that are fighting against Ukraine in Donbas should not forget.

– From 2014 the Ukrainian Armed Forces have made a great progress over a short period of time considering the condition in which the army was at the time. Could you name the three most outstanding attainments that have been achieved during the past year you have been in command of the operation?

– First of all I’d like to note that the Joint Forces Operation that has replaced the format of the anti-terrorist operation has an essentially military character and provides for a wide range of tasks, namely: inhibition of aggression, creating safe conditions for the infrastructures of towns and villages to be restored, assisting in cultural rehabilitation of the region, providing people with objective and truthful information. Speaking about our successes, I’d like to mention the creation of safety zones within the operation region, taking under our control a number of settlements that are situated along the front line between our forces and the enemy. All these actions have strengthened the positions of the JFO as well as the safety zones.

Second, we have optimized and improved the structure of the forces, renewed armament and equipment of the operation. We have made more efficient the commanding vertical that is responsible for the management of the troops and practical implementation of a whole complex of different tasks. And of course, a considerable progress has been made in restoring the infrastructure of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that have been ruined by combat actions.

– What does the Ukrainian soldier of the 21st century look like? Could you describe him?

– As the Commander of the Joint Forces, I have to communicate with servicemen of different categories. And I have any ground to state that the modern Ukrainian serviceman is outfitted according to standards of the armies of the economically developed countries. Our soldier is equipped not only with Soviet but also with up-to-date Ukrainian and foreign armament and military equipment. The Ukrainian soldier is well trained as much attention is paid to military education which includes the tactics of conducting combat missions and other tasks. During the past five years of war, Ukrainian servicemen have gained considerable military skills. Today our foreign partners adopt our experience in conducting hybrid warfare. That is why I can state with confidence that the Ukrainian soldier is a well-motivated and highly-professional defender of his country.

– In order to obstruct the election process in Ukraine, the special services of the Russian Federation are trying to destabilize and eventually disrupt the elections. In what way is it manifested in the East, in the areas controlled by the JFO?

– The nearer the election date, the more provocations are registered in the mass media. A lot of Ukrainians are being misinformed by information fakes on various vital problems in order to deceive people and spread panic among them. The entire army of Russian bloggers with or without military insignias is employed to carry out in the Internet, at different forums information attacks against leaders of the country, army commanders of different levels. The goal of those attacks is to force a Russian opinion upon Ukrainian voters.

– How do people of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions feel about this? What attitudes and sentiments prevail? Have people lost their faith that peaceful and normal life is possible for them?

– Moods differ, as everywhere. Those people who live not far from the first line of defense support servicemen as their true liberators. They regard representatives of the military and civil administrations as the only lawful bodies of self-government. Of course, the situation in those regions is not simple. For decades the minds of residents who live there have been influenced by the powerful Russian propaganda machine which has done everything possible to set Ukrainians against Ukraine. We have to fight for these people by any means including the exclusion from radio and television programs Russian and increasing Ukrainian contents.

– What is your opinion about the reform of the Armed Forces of Ukraine? When could Ukraine become a member of NATO?

– First of all I am a military man. Undoubtedly, the reform is a positive process though sometimes changes do not come easily. There are both subjective and objective reasons for that. But I have to say that this process is irreversible because it is necessitated by historic events that are taking place in Ukraine. The Ukrainian army today fulfills vitally important functions. It plays an extremely important part in the creation of the Ukrainian State and defending its independence.

Second. Ukraine has been long and persistently following the course toward membership at the North Atlantic Alliance. During previous decades prior 2014 Ukraine did the same but slowly and uncertainly. The last five years have become a breakthrough in everything that concerns participation in joint military exercises, peacekeeping missions, training under the guidance of instructors from different armies. Much progress has been made by Ukrainian servicemen in military science, logistics and other spheres of war art.

In fact, the Ukrainian army today differs little from the armies of NATO member-states, and in some spheres, especially in combat experience, takes the lead. Surely, a certain road has to be travelled to become a NATO member. The Government and the Armed Forces of Ukraine have adopted relevant doctrines, legal norms and acts that specify steps that have to be taken along that road. I think that the day when Ukraine will be granted membership in the Alliance is not that far from now.

– What would you say to Russian servicemen that are fighting in Donbas if you had such an opportunity?

– Every day we speak with those Russian servicemen who take part in aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine using the language of Ukrainian weapons. And they understanding this language only too well. As an officer, I want to add that Russian mercenaries who are shelling peaceful cities and villages, killing women, children and old people have no right to call themselves servicemen. To be a serviceman means to be a person of honor and courage. To be a true serviceman means to be ready to defend one’s native land to the last breath. He who craves for a foreign peaceful land is a marauder and a criminal rather than a serviceman.