The Anti-Terror Operation framework is being replaced with an Operation of the Joint Forces. The Joint Operation Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will replace the ATO headquarters. Could this measure be something more than a simple relabeling? In order to answer that question, 112.ua has looked into the terminology, the laws and the powers conferred upon the new authorities.
Do you ever wonder how many articles, blog posts or conversations in the kitchen started with: “During the second/third/fourth year of the war, the government finally…”? Also very popular: “The President promised to finish the ATO within three months”. So it is winter of 2018, when Petro Poroshenko eventually signs the law on “On the specifics of the state policy on ensuring state sovereignty of Ukraine on the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions”, commonly known as law “on the reintegration of Donbas”. The document, apart from everything else, details the transition of the Anti-Terror Operation framework, the Anti-terror center of the Secret Service of Ukraine and the director of that center.
The leading role in fighting the Russian aggression is going to be borne by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, whereas the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff are supposed to come up with a nominee for the position of the joint forces commander.
“The law signed by the President of Ukraine on 20 February, organizes the deployment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for performing tasks they performed within the ATO, as well as the change of the main operation’s framework. The ATO will be finished, and an Operation of the joint forces will kick off. It assumes a clear structure of governance, subordination of certain military assets to the commandment, as well as the establishment of a united operation headquarters as the main authority managing the operation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions”, - Viktor Muzhenko pointed out.
He said earlier that the ATO will be replaced with an operation of the joint forces led by the military commandment. Muzhenko did not mention who will be in charge of it, but he did say it is going to be “someone with combat experience”.
“We have qualified applicants. There is a certain approval procedure. After that, they will be presented before the President of Ukraine for confirmation. This is going to be a person with combat experience, sufficient skills, knowledge and hands-on experience required to perform these tasks”, - Muzhenko said.
Hence, Ukraine has now got a law, which is supposed to organize all of its defensive forces and directly regulate the operations of the security agencies in the now former ATO area.
The joint operation headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is now going to be the main body in the conflict area. It is going to command the military assets of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, other military groups, the Interior Ministry, the National police that are dedicated to combating the Russian aggression in Donetsk and Luhansk regions”. Law enforcement officers, servicemen and everybody else involved in fighting the aggressor, are going to be subordinate to the Chief of the joint operation headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
According to the law, the headquarters will “plan, organize and control the execution of tasks on national security and protection and defense, curbing and coercion of the Russian military aggression in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, direction, coordination and control of civil-military or military administrations (if such are formed) in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the areas of national security and defense.
Also, the head of the operation headquarters, in cooperation with the Security Service of Ukraine, will oversee the movement of individuals across the delimitation line, the imports of goods into the occupied areas of Donbas.
Into the laws where the Anti-terror center of the Security Service of Ukraine was mentioned, the following phrase was added: “either the United operation headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (in case of establishment for the purpose of executing the powers of relevant government authorities in the area and of conducting national security and defense measures, curbing and combating the Russian military aggression in Donetsk and Luhansk regions)”. The ATO area is now referred to as the “area where measures are taken”. In particular, this is how the law on civil-military administrations was amended.
For example, the Chief of the joint operation headquarters makes personnel appointments within civil-military administrations, wherever servicemen or law enforcement officers are appointed. In case such regional civil-military administrations are not established, the Chief of the joint operation headquarters assumes these powers nonetheless. Previously, the head of the Anti-terror center of the Secret Service of Ukraine was responsible for this.
The bill on national security, which is still to be passed, concerns the powers of the commander of the joint forces in greater detail. The President of Ukraine, upon the presentation of the defense minister and taking into account the recommendations of the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, appoints and dismisses an individual from the position. The President may appoint the commander of the joint forces for operations control in particular areas. The commander of the joint forces is subordinate to the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Commanders of those types of the armed forces or leaders of other military groups, whose units are engaged in the joint operation, continue supporting their staff, managing personnel and being in charge of weaponry, ammunition and equipment.
The commander of the joint forces participates in the deployment of assets and planning of actions should unforeseen circumstances arise for the armed forces and defense units to be used.
And lastly, the commander has a right to report on the execution of tasks directly to the President. The President will authorize the use of the joint forces in particular operations.
As Petro Poroshenko said, “the relevant preparatory procedures should be completed by 1 April”.
Now nobody will be able to say “what do the Armed Forces have to do with it, if it is an anti-terror operation”. The change of the operation’s framework details the role of every law enforcement authority in the armed conflict, which helps to organize the regulatory framework. Military servicemen suppose that only the titles of positions and control bodies will change, but little will change in actual measures and operations. This is not due to “treason”, but because it is impossible to change the main principles and methods of warfare. Those may be entitled differently, but the work on the forefront remains largely unchanged.