“Indefinite” contractors: to be or not to be – Taras Pastukh

An updated version of the “termless” contracts bill – №5337 – was presented for the consideration of the Verkhovna Rada. This document actually suggests making the military, who signed the “by the end of the special period” contracts, stay in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for another two years.

Why did it happen so?

Thousands of soldiers who were the first to voluntarily go to the East, who have survived Debaltseve, Ilovaisk, Donetsk airport defence, have actually become hostages of the law on “termless” contracts signed by Yanukovych, back in 2013.

During the first waves of mobilization the volunteers concluded the so-called “by the completion of the special period” contracts. That is, until the completion of the ATO, and therefore – for an indefinite term.

Justice was to be restored by the bill №4689, which allowed the military, who concluded such contracts at the beginning of the ATO, break them or sign new ones for a certain period – 6, 12 or 18 months.

Also, according to the introduced amendment, the law was supposed to apply to the military, who had signed their contracts before the ATO began – in 2011-2013 – and had been unaware that this “special period” would come soon. Because after this point the action of such contracts was extended automatically for an indefinite period. Therefore, we have the soldiers, who, having served for three years, have been serving for two more years above the norm.

The bill №4689 was approved by all the committees of the Verkhovna Rada, the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff, and it was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. And then the President vetoed it. October 18, the Parliament failed to override the veto; there weren’t enough votes.

Contract service: voluntary vs compulsory

Thus today, the Verkhovna Rada proposes the updated version of the bill on “termless” contracts – №5337. This document actually suggests making the military, who signed the “by the end of the special period” contracts, stay in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for another two years

According to the bill №5337, the soldiers who had concluded their contracts before the “special period” started and the period of validity of whose contracts has expired, must serve for 18 months. Those who entered into their contracts after the “special period” started – for 24 months.

Let’s model a situation: the contract is signed in 2011, in 2014 the contract ended, 18 months have passed since then, and the soldier has the right to resign. It might seem that the justice is restored! Not really. Because there are final provisions which state: the soldiers who are subject to the bill may resign voluntarily from the Armed Forces in accordance with the schedule set up by the central executive authorities, which, in accordance with the law, exercise the leadership over the military units, but no later than in two years from the date of the current law’s entry into force.

That is, part of the men who could have used this law, now must fight for two more years. And the document hasn’t even passed the first reading.

The schedule of the “indefinite” soldiers’ resignations will be developed by the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff. And there is virtually no hope the amount of time the soldiers still need to serve in the Armed Forces will reduce. To see this for oneself, it is necessary to go to the front. Here you can see firsthand the staffing level of our brigades, which is at the rate of 30-50 percent. All the pretentious claims about the army being contract and voluntary are very quickly dispelled after traveling to the front.

That is why today nobody is ready to let soldiers go by the time the replacement that will make up for the sixth wave of the demobilized takes place. The bill №5337 is yet another confirmation of this.

And while all these bureaucratic delays take place, for the military – who haven’t seen their families for years, who are morally and psychologically exhausted – the only chance to get back home is either being crippled or killed. There are no other legal ways. This is the gratitude the military received from the country they are defending. And this is all against the backdrop of the Law of Ukrainian clearly defining that contract service is voluntary.

Therefore, today we must make every effort not only to free the Ukrainian soldiers from the captivity of separatists, but also from the captivity of the Armed Forces of their own country! The military service for “special contract” soldiers turned into a bondage from which there is no escape.

Passing the bill №5337 in its current version means ignoring the interests of the fighters, and once again making the families of contract soldiers seek help of the officials, create initiative groups, protest in order to be finally heard.

One of the compromises is to reduce the schedule of the military’s dismissal to one year. And the most important thing is a proper attitude towards and motivation of soldiers. Only then we can build a voluntary contract army, of which today there are so many talks. And the need for “indefinite contract” soldiers will disappear by itself.

Taras Pastuh
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