The war in the eastern Ukraine lasts for more than a year. Ministry of Defense seemed not to be well positioned to respond to this scenario. For the average guy, who had never been involved in army issues, it took a few months to gain an insight into the war. Ivan Rodichenko is one of those guys; before the Maidan he was involved into show business, and possessed an event-agency. But this man is really special: except volunteering within the country, he also cooperated with Ukrainian diaspora in the Netherlands, Czech Republic, and the U.S. He started with finding basic military outfits, and just in a year he came to attracting investment into Ukrainian defense industry.
Ivan, you’ve been a successful volunteer for a year, please, describe the significant changes of this movement.
I’m convinced that volunteers’ movement had become obsolete already, and they have to pass their functions to the state. At the first time, together with volunteer battalions, we were indeed needed. Unfortunately, we cannot solve all the problems faced by the army, we are almost out of resources. We need to find jobs, earn for living, we have families, children too. At the same time, people much less help us with military outfits, or put more crudely, they are fed up. Currently, 59th brigade is forming a medicine company, and asked me to supply them with radio sets. Of course, I will help them, but the general tendency seems to change – people are tired of it. We must gain a new level, when the state is able to afford the armed forces completely. In my opinion, volunteers would better focus on developing defense industry and finding investments.
Is the state ready to assume full operational responsibility for the army, from your perspective?
When this has just started, our soldiers did not have any basic things like socks or bulletproof vests. Today we may observe some positive movements. They have uniforms and shoes; the quality of the training has improved too. At the same time, Ministry of Defense is still coping, according to official data, only 40% of soldiers are supplied. We may see some positive tendencies, but the state does not have the capacity to deal though.
What problems do you mean?
First of all, recruits. Military committees conscript everyone just to fill their reports. For example, few days ago I’ve been to "Desna" [training ground], and 60 soldiers from Sumy were delivered there. I apologize for saying this, but they really look like homeless people. And they are to become soldiers. At best only 20 out of 100 would be able to fight. Secondly, the soldiers have no motivation. A year ago people joined the army, because they had an enemy in front of them and their families and homes to defend. Now it is completely different. I spoke to my guys, who have been serving for a year and now are back. They don’t want to go back, you know, for some two thousand UAH (near $100) per month.
According to my observations, almost two in ten are ready to go back and fight. Who would go back for only two thousands? Defending your country is a hard work. And thirdly, Ministry of Defense has not standardized the strategic medicine. But it could decrease the number of amputations. Well, the U.S. uses a concept of “golden hour”: a victim’s chances of survival are greatest if he receives resuscitation within the first hour after a severe injury. In Ukrainian realities it takes up to eight hours! That is why the amputations here are frequently.
On the one hand, volunteers and people cannot fully supply the army, and on the other hand, Ministry of Defense can support only 40%. So now what?
I think that volunteers should give priority to military technologies development, not to army supply. The more we have companies, developing the military technologies, the more workplaces we get, and the money left within the country. It would result in both, army improvement and economic sustainability.
You’ve mentioned that volunteers should better develop the military industry in Ukraine. Would it really work?
Of course, previously our aims were completely different. I’ve traveled around the U.S., talked to diaspora and schools. More than ten American channels had interviews with me. At that time we had two goals, to tell people the truth about Ukraine and to find as much assistance as possible. Together with Ukrainian Congress Committee in America we voiced this issue in the U.S. Congress. We met with Carolyn Maloney, Louise Slaughter [members of the Congress] and senator McCain.
I believe that I have coped with both of the purposes. The intelligence battalion, which I’ve supported since becoming a volunteer, has got the high-quality uniforms, plus assistance to other military units and soldiers. The U.S. Congress, as we may see, is on our side. They are still wary of lethal weapons delivery, but they give us equipment, send their trainers, and Humvees. I am carrying outfit for those who need; fortunately, there are some stable channels and this need is not so acute.
But still, I put the greatest emphasis on defense industry development. I’m sure that we’ve got a significant potential in this sphere. And there are some projects embracing this field. Now I’m trying to convince the foreign investors.