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Homeless for 4 years: where do Crimea's Ukrainian officers live

Author : Iryna Sampan

Recently, 35 military servicemen of the Ukrainian naval forces that left the occupied Crimea four years ago, wrote an open letter to the President. As it turns out, this is not their first address. The previous one happened at the end of last year, however, “no response from the President came (the official reaction from the Ministry of Defense)”. The plea remains the same – to solve the housing issue for those servicemen that lost their homes and apartments as the result of the annexation.
23:38, 26 July 2018

Defense Ministry of Ukraine

“The Defense Ministry does not care about our problems. Such actions lead to the ultimate loss of trust towards the management of the state, as well as to increased social tension and psychological exhaustion of our families”, - the letter reads.

They point out the fact that the majority of the apartments, along with private property, was seized by the Russian military, “There is no future for the solution to the issue in Crimea. At the same time, the promises regarding the right to obtain permanent housing in the non-occupied territory of Ukraine still remains just promises, there have been no changes made to the legislation in the 4 years. Hence, we are considered as having accommodation we in fact do not have”, - military servicemen add. Also, they hinted that the absence of housing may encourage the military to return to Crimea and become Russian citizens.

When and How did it all happen?

As of March 2014, close to a thousand of soldiers in Crimea were occupying official accommodation units provided by Ukraine’s defense ministry, some of them had privatized them. At the time of the occupation, Russian Federation offers them to stay in Crimea, and to join the Russian side. In exchange, they are offered positions, apartments and decent salary or pension. The majority of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Crimea violate their oath and stays on the peninsula. However, 3991 Ukrainian servicemen (1649 officers and 2432 private corps and dockyard staff), 2638 of them being naval force servicemen leave the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to enter the continental Ukraine.

 

After that, the Russian army captures not only military bases and territory, but also the private property belonging to Ukrainian servicemen, their housing, which it now considers its own. In order to not let it happen, the Cabinet of Ukraine publishes a decree dated 10 September 2014, which allows Ukrainian military men that left Crimea to privatize their official accommodation, where they were living as of 1 January 2014 (On the setting of a Procedure for the privatization of housing units in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol by Ukrainian military servicemen).

The hopes of the private property not getting "nationalized" did not come to fruition.

 

Related: Putin ordered to provide housing for Ukrainian deserters in annexed Crimea

"We have many cases when housing is captured along with the furniture, private belongings, and there are Russian military servicemen living there with their families. If the Cabinet’s decree paralyzed us, as we have lost the right to obtain permanent accommodation in Ukraine, as we have already received, but how do we give it back?” – Maryna Kanalyuk, the advisor to the commander of the Ukrainian Naval Forces, told 112.ua in an interview.

 

According to the official response from the Officership of the Naval Forces of Ukraine, military sailors were able to privatize some 100 apartments in the annexed Crimea, but the privatization papers are not recognized by the occupational authority.

 

"The servicemen have to pay for utilities and court fees regarding the housing they have no access to. However, representatives of the Russian Defense Ministry consider it their property and take action on seizing it. Apart from that, the servicemen of the Naval Forces of Ukraine have lost their right to acquire permanent housing from the state”, - the response reads.

 

What does the "have lost their right to acquire permanent housing from the state” actually mean? For the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s servicemen there is a housing queue from the defense ministry, and, according to a report on the execution of the passport budgetary program, as of 1 January 2018, it included some 47097 names. Naval Forces servicemen that privatized apartments in Crimea were removed from the list, as they have used their right to housing.

According to the ministry's official account, as of 1 April 2014, some 4,952 families of military servicemen and reserve forces required improved housing conditions, 3282 of which were the families of Naval Forces servicemen. Only 823 of those families were living in official apartments, 435 of which were the families of the Ukrainian Navy.

 

This is why 112.ua asked the Apartment Usage Directorate of the Ukrainian Armed Forces how the leadership of the ministry and its specialist branches plan to solve the housing issue for the Crimean servicemen. To that, we received a long reply, which also contradicts the Navy’s position. We publish the Directorate’s reply without amendments.

 

"The procedure for providing servicemen and their family members with housing is set by the requirements of the Instruction on the organization of provision of housing to the servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and their family members, stipulated by the Defense Ministry’s order from 30 November 2011 #737 (amended), registered at the Justice Ministry on 10 January 2012 under #24/20337. The Instruction was amended in sections pertaining to the provision of Crimean servicemen according to their desire to join the housing queue while maintaining the previous inclusion in the queue and exercising all rights to provision of accommodation from the defense ministry’s fund disregarding the obtained residential facilities (regardless of the estate) in the territory of the autonomous republic.

It also stipulates the opportunity to receive a monetary compensation for renting accommodation, if the servicemen have housing on the temporarily occupied territory.

 

Related: NATO, Ukraine's Navy to hold joint drills in Black Sea

It should also be noted that in order to provide a safety net for the aforementioned category of servicemen and their family members, a number of legislative acts have been introduced by the government. They include the Law of Ukraine “On the provision of civil rights and freedoms and the legal process on the temporarily occupied territory”, Article 15 of which says that the acquisition of a private property to housing located on the temporarily occupied territory by military servicemen and their family members does not prohibit their right to privatize the housing located in other parts of Ukraine.

Judging from the aforementioned, the issue of providing military servicemen that served in Crimea and their families with housing from the defense ministry’s fund has been solved.

MrPasichny, a representative of the Directorate, also explained that the servicemen of the Naval Forces are just returning to the housing queue and that their turn they had at the time of the privatization of Crimean apartments are maintained.

“They simply switched the station. What is the difference between a relocation of a soldier from Feodosia to Dnipro different from his relocation from Zhytomir to Rivne? There is none. This is why they re-join the main queue”, - MrPasichny said.

In the four years between April 2014 and April 2018, Naval Forces servicemen were fiven a total of 22 official apartments and 2 permanent apartments paid for by the ministry.

Another important figure – there are some 100 soldiers living in the Armed Forces' ships. It is also the official response from the officership of the Navy. Although in July 2016, President Poroshenko claimed that around 600 sailors in Odesa  now have to live in their ships as they have no accommodation.

And those people are waiting for their turn too.

 

Related: Ukrainian Navy test upgraded anti-tank cannons

The queue keeps growing

In the article entitled “The housing question. How the defense ministry has been providing the army with housing over the last five years” we wrote that between 2013 and 2017 the authority assigned 3868 apartments to the military. The cost of the construction or acquisition of housing stood at UAH 117.1 million in 2013, at UAH 189.4 million in 2014, at UAH 870.8 million in 2015, at UAH 715.1 million in 2016, at UAH 691.1 million in 2017. As of the beginning of 2018, the housing queue included some 46.3 families of the military. In its report on the execution of the budgetary program of the ministry, as of 1 January 2018, the figure was at 47,097.

“The increased number of homeless military servicemen by 1915 individuals that are in the housing queue happened due to  the inclusion of university graduates, the higher number of private corps serving under a contract, and other reasons”, - the explanatory addendum to the data reads.  

That is in order to understand how fast the queue is moving. The percentage of individuals provided with housing out of those on the list is 1%.

Also, the same report that is published on the defense ministry’s website the number of apartments were commissioned by the authority. It is visible that due to various reasons, the ministry received 50% less apartments than it had expected.

 

Open source

The number of apartments that resulted from the reconstruction of the facilities that started in the previous years: the main fund – 155 apartments, 4 obtained; the special fund – 52 apartments, 0 obtained.

The number of apartments that have the status of an official housing unit. Out of the main fund, 242 apartments were going to be allocated over 2017, it turned out to be 88; out of the special fund 102 were planned for new status, 0 were allocated with it. It is explained by: a) the ministry has constructed less housing than expected; b) apartments that were acquired in December 2017, were not divided into permanent and official ones.

 

If the state is not capable of providing you with an apartment, it is capable of compensating you for renting it. Last year, a total of 62 individuals were lucky to get compensated. The average amount of compensation stood at UAH 479,000 ($18,000).

 

RFE/RL

Is the housing being built?

As the Directorate responded to the request, in 2018, construction of three apartment blocks of 72 flats each is expected in Mykolaiv region (Southern Ukraine) is expected to be financed by the state budget. In particular, it will be for those Naval Forces servicemen that left Crimea.

Not too long ago, the Chief of Naval Operations of Ukraine Ihor Voronchenko informed that the construction of an 80-apartment building for the Armed Forces of Ukraine and a dormitory for servicemen under contract is about to be completed in Odesa. “A building for 120 people has already been built in Odesa, another one is being built now, it will be followed by a third one. The construction process is still ongoing in regards to the housing fund for private corps and offices. There are also issues  that require solution, we are working on them”, - the vice-admiral noted.

Chied engineer at  the Yuzny branch of the Directorate colonel Yuriy Pidgaetsky told that facilities for marines are being builta at the Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky and Mykolaiv posts. “Generally, problems here arise as the result of the contractors’ inability to fulfill their obligations. Particularly, that is the situation we encountered during the construction of a dormitory for 340 individuals in Odesa for the Navy base. We need to do everything in order to relocate the personnel that is currently accommodated on their ships”, - Mr Pidgaestky said.

 

Defense Ministry of Ukraine

Another massive project (at least referred to as such by the officership) is going to take place in Dachne (Odesa region, Southern Ukraine), where a military town accommodating over a thousand of marines is about to be built. The works here started 9 months ago, and, according to Ihor Voronchenko, the approximate cost of the construction is supposed at UAH 240 million ($9 million), it is about halway finished. „Of course, it has not been all that simple. Certain tender participants did not wish to lose in a competitive fight, that‘s why, for example, were dumping to such levels that were impossible to fulfill. Or they disputed the tender results. Hence, a long paperwork procedure ensued, negatively impacting the construction process. Everything has been normalized now“, - he added.

StepanPoltorak, the defense minister, visited Dachne in April.

 

"This is the first of the kind infrastructure project in line with NATO standards, which includes the construction of separate dormitories for army conscript and contractual staff and their family members. Also, it provides for the construction of a new cafeteria, a boiler house, as well as training buildings”, - the minister pointed out.

He hopes the construction of the main items will be completed by the year's end.

 

***

"We hope the state leadership does not stay away from solving the hosuing issue for the military sailors and it does not encourage the servicemen of the Naval Forces to return to the occupied Crimea and to get Russian citizenship in order to solve their lodging problem, which threatens the private lives of the sailors and their families", - the letter to the President reads.

 

It is understood that the letter is filled with resentment towards the state that is incapable of appreciating the loyalty of those who left Crimea. They are asking why, when they ended up in such a situation and having lost almost everything, they have to live in ships deprived of any benefits for a sooner acquisition of housing. It is obvious that the housing situation for servicemen is far from the best. However, the situation is the same with Crimean displaced individuals, as well as with those from Donetsk and Luhansk not only in the Armed Forces, but also in other security agencies. Similar concerns could be voiced by those servicemen who, upon arrival from the Anti-Terror Operation, lived in tents instead of warm barracks. These are the rights that officers that have been renting apartments for 20 years could voice. As well as 47,000 other families.

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