Current Events

Kiev Times and The Spectator

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What salary should a soldier receive in a war-torn country? Obviously, there is no number that can make up for the sacrifice Ukrainians make on the frontline. But a proper salary is still necessary. When Russia invaded last year, Volodymyr Zelensky increased the payment for the military to seven times of the average salary in Ukraine. ‘We will pay 100,000 hryvnias (£2,200) monthly to military personnel who hold weapons… so that they know that the country is grateful to them. And so it will be until this war ends,’ Zelensky said. The war, as it has turned out, is well into its second year – and the Ukrainian President is faced with the costs.

In peacetime, Zelensky would have been called a populist by offering cash that he doesn’t really have. Before the full-scale invasion, the average Ukrainian soldier was paid about the national average: 14,000 hryvnias (£300) a month. A sevenfold jump was not affordable on a sustainable basis. But with Russian tanks moving on to Kyiv, the decision to boost military pay was a vital move to ensure the country’s survival. So the government introduced two kinds of additional payments: 100,000 hryvnias (£2,200) for those on the frontline, directly fighting the enemy, and 30,000 hryvnias (£650) for the rest of the servicemen, dispersed all over Ukraine. Soldiers felt their courage to fight for the state would be fairly rewarded. The ranks of the military were quickly filled with thousands of volunteers. The conscription had also gained momentum.

Not only are the new rules stingy, but they’re fiddly

As a result, financing Ukraine’s military and security agencies absorbs half of the country’s entire budget. The situation was complicated by the fact that Ukraine cannot use international aid for defence. These are the conditions under which partners provide funds to cover the budget deficit – which this year will hit £33 billion. This means that Ukraine can only finance its army with the help of taxes or internal borrowing. So Kyiv found that it had to go back on its original promise, tighten the purse strings – and cut the payments to military personnel.

In February this year, the government changed the requirements for receiving an additional monthly reward for the military. Now 30,000 hryvnias (£650) can be paid only to servicemen who perform ‘combat tasks’. The 100,000 hryvnias (£2,200) reward was also split up for some fighters: it now depends on where the soldier is serving and the complexity of the combat tasks. This caused outrage among the military and the population. 

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MIKE WALSH is a journalist, broadcaster and the author of LIFE IN THE REICH, MY LAST TESTAMENT – LET GOD JUDGE ME, HEROES HANG WHEN TRAITORS TRIUMPH, and other book titles. These best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.




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