Territorial Defense Forces (Ukraine)

The Territorial Defence Forces (Ukrainian: Війська територіальної оборони, romanizedViiska terytorialnoi oborony) are the military reserve component of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Territorial Defence Forces
Війська територіальної оборони (Ukrainian)
Founded2014 (unofficially)
2022 (officially)
TypeMilitary reserve force
RoleLight infantry
Size37,000 active
130,000 volunteers
Part ofArmed Forces of Ukraine
AnniversariesThe first Sunday of October[1]
General Ihor Tantsyura[2]
Territorial Defence soldiers during the Battle of Kyiv, 25 February 2022

The Territorial Defence Forces were formed after the reorganization of the Territorial Defence Battalions, volunteer militias created during the war in Donbas under the command of the Ministry of Defence.[3] Territorial Defence units existed from 2015 until 2021 in semi-organized forms until 2022 when they were officially organized into a unified corps that formed a separate branch of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.[4][5]

It is formed by a core of part-time reservists, usually former combat veterans, and in cases of war can be expanded to include local civilian volunteers for local defense, in a case of mass mobilization,[6] with the core expected to lead the mobilized volunteers.[5] The TDF was officially activated with the start of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, and more than 100,000 civilians had volunteered by March.[7]

The International Legion of Territorial Defence of Ukraine, formed by foreign volunteers, is part of the Territorial Defense Forces.[8]

History Edit

In 2014 the Armed Forces of Ukraine suffered a series of military defeats; the Annexation of Crimea by Russia led to the takeover of the peninsula as most of the military either surrendered without resistance or defected to Russia.[9] While in the initial stages war in Donbas, the Ukrainian military had a number of setbacks and defeats against the pro-Russian separatist forces, as they were ill-prepared, ill-equipped, lacking in professionalism, morale, fighting spirit and with severe incompetence in the high command.[10]

As the Donbas situation deteriorated, many civilians started to form volunteer militias and paramilitary groups to fight the separatists, known as the "Volunteer Battalions". The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine started to organize and mobilize some of these units under their command as the Territorial Defence Battalions.[11] The Territorial Defense Battalions and other Volunteer Battalions were credited with having held the line against separatist forces and allowing the Ukrainian military to reorganize and mobilize.[12]

In late 2014 the system of territorial defense of Ukraine changed.[13] Territorial defense battalions were reorganized and transferred to the mechanized infantry brigade of the Army.[14] To replace them, a new structure of the territorial defense forces of the Armed Forces was gradually introduced.[4]

The example of Ukrainian Forces was later used by Poland to build its own armed forces, which from 2015 and on implemented a similar practice.[15]

Territorial Defense Forces partisans capture an abandoned Pantsir missile system.

On 25 May 2021, President Volodymyr Zelensky introduced a law to the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's national parliament) "on the basis of national resistance" that proposed to increase the number of the territorial forces by 11,000 servicemen.[16] The old Territorial Defence units would be now organized under the new Territorial Defense Forces as a standalone branch of the Armed Forces. Veterans of the Donbas war from the Armed Forces of Ukraine, National Guard of Ukraine and other paramilitary forces involved in the conflict would provide a backbone to train and lead the mobilized volunteers.[17] On 16 July 2021 parliament approved this bill, and on 29 July 2021 Zelensky signed the law.[16] On 1 January 2022, the Territorial Defence Forces were officially activated. The creation of the branch coincided with the Russian military build-up which had been ongoing since 2021.[7]

Territorial Defense Forces soldiers pose in front of the sign of Shevchenkove, then recently captured after the Kharkiv counteroffensive

On 11 February 2022, the planned number of volunteers was increased from 1.5 to 2 million.[18]

As a result of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Territorial Defense Forces reserves were activated and many civilians joined local Territorial Defense Forces groups to fight the Russian invaders. On 25 February, during the rapid Russian offensive into Kyiv, the Ukrainian government distributed 18,000 guns for people wishing to fight in Kyiv.[19] For the next few days, the Territorial Forces were engaged in various combat situations and battles around Ukraine, supporting the Ukrainian Ground Forces and National Guard of Ukraine. By 6 March, almost 100,000 people had volunteered for the Territorial Defense Forces.[7][20] Some units stopped accepting volunteer as they reached their operational limit. There were reports of Ukrainian volunteers paying bribes or using connections to join the Territorial Defense.[21]

On 27 February, as a result of many foreigners volunteering to fight for Ukraine, President Zelenskyy created the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, a foreign legion which was placed under the command of the Territorial Defense Forces.[8] A TDF battalion,[22] the Bratstvo battalion, was active in multiple major campaigns during the 2022 invasion, including the defense of Kyiv, the Kharkiv counteroffensive, and the liberation of Kherson. It is currently conducting riverine operations through its special forces unit.[23]

The Territorial Defense Forces were in charge of enganging in Partisan work and Guerrilla warfare on territory occupied by Russian forces.[24] In Kherson, local civilians joined local TDF units and formed cells in order to provide Partisan work, such as espionage, sabotage, assassination and reconnaissance.[24]

Territorial Defense Forces air defense squad of the 241st Kyiv TDF Brigade

In September 2022, the 113th Territorial Defense Brigade also partook in the Kharkiv counteroffensive namely in the direction of Vovchansk. Ukrainian units liberated most of the Kharkiv Oblast following the collapse of Russian frontline forces. This has been attributed to the lack of secondary and tertiary defensive lines.[25]

Tasks Edit

In accordance with the Constitution and legislation passed by the Supreme Council, the TDF fulfills the following missions:

  • Protection of public authorities, local governments, critical facilities, important public enterprises and communications
  • Deployment at checkpoints
  • Combating sabotage and intelligence forces of the enemy and any illegal armed formations and looters
  • Maintaining safety and security in any of the administrative divisions of Ukraine (regions, cities, districts and townships)
  • Organization of resistance and (or) guerrilla groups – in case of territory being captured by the enemy
  • Providing search and rescue and disaster response and mitigation during cases of peacetime natural and man-made disasters[26]

Structure Edit

Ukraine's territorial lands is divided into defense zones according to upper-level administrative units (regions, cities of special status, and Autonomous Republic of Crimea), which in turn are subordinate to the relevant operational command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in whose area of responsibility these administrative units belong.[27]

Each military commissariat forms a security company, and the regional military commissariats, in addition, are responsible for the territorial defense battalions (BtrO, 27 battalions). Each district (city) military commissariat in the area of its responsibility is responsible for the raising of two to five detachments of company size [12], depending on the assigned tasks (ZgO, 490 + 111 (districts in cities), 1202 units, at least does not take into account the occupied territories). Approximate staff strength - 423,428 (battalions: 13,284, guard companies: 75,988, defense units: 334,165) service personnel.

Territorial defense brigades are recruited on the basis of the military reserve and are responsible to the office of the regional military commissioner.

Territorial Defense Brigade Edit

  • Brigade Administration (headquarters) and HQ Company
  • 5-9 Territorial Infantry Battalions
  • Counter-Sabotage Company
  • Field Artillery/Anti-Tank Battery
  • Fire Support Company
  • Mortar Battery
  • Armored Infantry/Tank Company
  • Combat Support Formations (company/battalion)
    • Air Defense Artillery Battery
    • Combat Engineer Battalion/Company
  • Service Support Units
  • Brigade Depot

Territorial Rifle Battalion Edit

  • Battalion Administration (headquarters) Company
  • 3 Infantry Companies
  • Fire Support Company
  • Reconnaissance Platoon
  • Field Communication Unit
  • Engineer Platoon
  • Material Support Platoon
  • Technical Control Point
  • Unit size: 492 Servicemen
  • Weapons: ZU-23-2, 82 mm mortar 2B9 «Vasilek» RPG-7, AK, PM
  • Vehicle: Automotive

Military Commissariat Defense Company Edit

  • Headquarters and HQ Platoon
  • 4 Protection Platoons
  • Unit size: 121 people
  • Weapons: RPG-7, AK, PM
  • Vehicle: Automotive

Defense Detachment Edit

  • Detachment HQ platoon
  • 9 Infantry Platoons
  • Economic Department
  • Maintenance Department of Automotive Engineering
  • Health Center
  • Unit size: 278 people
  • Weapons: RPG-7, AK, PM
  • Vehicle: Automotive

Civil Defense (Teroborona) Edit

Militiamen of the Civil Defence of the TDF, while being paramilitary, are also affiliated to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. They are organized similarly to the territorial battalions and/or companies.

International Legion Edit

As a subdivision of the TDFU, the International Legion of Territorial Defense is organized as an operational division with brigades/regiments or independent battalions, structured in like manner as the territorial battalions mentioned above.

Units Edit

As of 2022 the structure is as follows:[28]

Operational Command West Edit

Operational Command North Edit

Operational Command South Edit

Operational Command East Edit

Organisation Edit

Territorial defense throughout Ukraine is organized by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, or regional governments in the relevant areas, within their powers. Direct supervision of state territorial defense is done by the head of the General Staff, with the Commander of the Armed Forces assuming overall supervision thru the General Staff and the office of the Commander of the TDF.

Because of their territorial defense tasks the Territorial Defense Forces are involved in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations formed in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Ukraine, including law enforcement forces, units of the State Special Transport Service, State Special Communications Service of Ukraine and the relevant bodies and offices of the government of the republic.

Regional military commissariats form separate rifle battalions. District (city) military commissariats form defense units in an amount of 2 to 5 units, depending on the assigned tasks. Regional and district military commissariats have a staff defence company, involved in the task of territorial defense (TD).

All units are equipped reservists and military service obligatories. Preparation of the units of TD held within educational meeting of military service (with practical appeal) and the activities carried out between these.

Units of the ILTD are made up of veterans of foreign armed forces and are organized in like manner as the rest of the TDF.

Commanders Edit

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ (in Ukrainian) Zelensky introduced another holiday on Teacher's Day, Ukrayinska Pravda (30 September 2020)
  2. ^ "Zelensky appoints new commander of Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces Zelensky appoints new commander of Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces". Ukrinform. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  3. ^ https://www.benning.army.mil/infantry/magazine/issues/2016/APR-JUL/pdf/16)%20Cohen_UkraineVolunteers_TXT.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  4. ^ a b Maryn, Sonia (7 April 2021). "Ukraine's Territorial Defense volunteers prepare to support army in case of Russian invasion". Euromaidan Press. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Ukraine's new military branch: Citizens protecting their neighborhood". POLITICO. 2022-02-13. Retrieved 2022-04-20.
  6. ^ Ponomarenko, Illia (2022-01-07). "Who can and can't join Ukraine's Territorial Defense Force". The Kyiv Independent. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  7. ^ a b c "Behind the lines of Kyiv's territorial defence force | Globalnews.ca". Global News. Retrieved 2022-04-20.
  8. ^ a b Vohra, Anchal. "Ukraine's Foreign Legion Is Ready for Battle". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  9. ^ "Besieged Ukrainian soldiers DEFECT to Russia as Kiev prepares to pull 25,000 troops and their families out of Crimea - Georgia Newsday". 2015-09-09. Archived from the original on 9 September 2015. Retrieved 2022-04-09.
  10. ^ Akimenko, Valeriy. "Ukraine's Toughest Fight: The Challenge of Military Reform". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 2022-04-09.
  11. ^ "Heroes or Villains? Volunteer Battalions in Post-Maidan Ukraine" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 January 2022. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  12. ^ Collins, Liam. "In 2014, the 'decrepit' Ukrainian army hit the refresh button. Eight years later, it's paying off". The Conversation. Retrieved 2022-04-09.
  13. ^ Shelest, Hanna (2022-11-09). "Defend. Resist. Repeat: Ukraine's lessons for European defence – European Council on Foreign Relations". ECFR. Retrieved 2022-12-14.
  14. ^ "Territorial Defense Forces [Teritorialna Oborona - TrO]". www.globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 2022-12-14.
  15. ^ "Ukraine war pushes Poland to train civilians as soldiers for a military mighty enough to challenge Russia". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 2022-12-14.
  16. ^ a b (in Ukrainian) The law on national resistance came into force, Ukrayinska Pravda (1 January 2022)
  17. ^ "Behind the lines of Kyiv's territorial defence force | Globalnews.ca". Global News. Retrieved 2022-04-24.
  18. ^ "Ukraine's new military branch: Citizens protecting their neighborhood". 13 February 2022.
  19. ^ "As it happened: Kyiv warned of toxic fumes after strike on oil depot". BBC News. Archived from the original on June 26, 2023. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  20. ^ "Ukraine's territorial defense has increased by 100,000 people since start of Russian invasion - National Guard". Interfax-Ukraine. Retrieved 2022-04-20.
  21. ^ Petrasiuk, Vadym (17 March 2022). "How I "bribed" my way into joining Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces". Euromaidan Press. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  22. ^ "Bratstvo Battalion released photos of their foreign combatants from Ireland". 11 April 2022.
  23. ^ Gall, Carlotta; Prickett, Ivor (21 November 2022). "On the River at Night, Ambushing Russians". The New York Times.
  24. ^ a b Gettleman, Jeffrey (2022-12-25). "How Citizen Spies Foiled Putin's Grand Plan for One Ukrainian City". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-26.
  25. ^ Strozewski, Zoe (2022-12-09). "Ukraine brigade reveals how they beat Russia's last stronghold in Kharkiv". Newsweek. Retrieved 2022-12-18.
  26. ^ Constitution of Ukraine (English)Archived June 3, 2023, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ 116th United States Congress (20 December 2019). "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020". www.govinfo.gov. Public Law 116-92. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Publishing Office. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  28. ^ "In Ukraine will be formed more than 150 territorial defence battalions". 19 January 2022. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  29. ^ Zelensky appoints Halushkin Commander of territorial defense forces of Ukraine's Armed Forces, Interfax-Ukraine (1 January 2022)