On March 3, the Russian proxy representatives of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) reportedly gave permission to their military to launch preemptive attacks against Ukrainian forces along the frontline (Armiyadnr.su, RBC, March 3). Despite both sides announcing a comprehensive truce last July, 14 Ukrainian service members were killed since the start of 2021. Many more were injured by shelling, landmines and sniper fire that has intensified from the Russia-backed separatists’ side (Pravda.com.ua, February 28).Throughout this time, Ukraine has continued to reach out to and develop its relations with strategic Western security partners. As recently as February 25, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who praised Ukraine’s ongoing reforms of its defense sector as well as reaffirmed the Alliance’s support for its Euro-Atlantic ambitions (President.gov.ua, February 25). Meanwhile, in Washington, the Joseph Biden administration recently announced an additional $125 military aid package to Ukraine (Kyiv Post, March 2).Yet despite the notable military assistance and political backing the country has been receiving from its international allies, by some measures the situation within the Ukrainian Armed Forces remains gloomy. According to reporting published last autumn, throughout the period 2018–2020, around 77,000 contract soldiers resigned—a third of Ukraine’s total military personnel, numbering about 250,000. “If before, the Ministry of Defense was one of the most open bodies, now it is the most closed,” said Mykola Sungurovsky, the director of the military program at the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center. The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Colonel General Ruslan Khomchak, admits the military suffers from a problem of personnel turnover, but he noted that the same issue plagues all other armies around the world. And the reasons for these resignations among Ukrainian service members vary, including problem related to housing shortages or lack of fulfillment of some social guarantees. Khomchak asserted the Ukrainian military has to significantly change its mentality, its upbringing, ideology, military culture, and so on (BBC News—Ukrainian service, October 21, 2020).In a recent interview, Colonel Serhii Sobko, a former commander of the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade, pointed out that those Soviet-style Ukrainian officers who dodged the war in 2014–2015 are now returning to the chain of command, which is adding new uncertainty to the Armed Forces’ proclaimed NATO path. Sobko recounted that, in 2018, he unexpectedly lost a promised ten-month study position at the US Army War College (Carlisle, Pennsylvania), which at the last minute was reassigned to another Ukrainian officer. Purportedly, Sobko was told he would instead be receiving a military promotion, but even a year later, no such elevation was ever given. He attributed this episode to his showing insufficient deference to the high command and refusing to accept the status quo within the military: “If I was quieter and did not raise any problems [in the army] to the command, military service would have been more comfortable for me” (YouTube, March 2, 2021).During a trip to the frontline last month, President Zelenskyy affirmed that Ukrainian units are allowed to proportionally respond to instances of enemy fire (Ukrinform, February 11). But despite such assurances, many on-the-ground commanders still hesitate to give the order to fire back, in order to avoid further complaints from Kyiv. As this author personally witnessed during a visit to the Donbas line of control in mid-February 2021, following any exchange of fire, Ukrainian troops are required to prove they did not shoot first. Rebukes from commanders for discharging a weapon can end with involuntary resignation, ultimately ending the individual’s military career. In off-the-record conversations with this author, Ukrainian soldiers complained of effectively having to hide their activities from the high command while fighting for their own land.A related problem, according to frontline troops, is overwhelming volumes of paperwork, which was not seen since 2014. Instead of fulfilling their direct duties, many service members now must deal with military bureaucracy, which includes answering thousands of formal request telegrams and filling out military reports that must be written by hand. One Ukrainian officer recently shared on his Facebook page that, last year, he received 3,853 incoming telegrams, letters, proofs, requirements, instructions, and other documentation—which averages out to at least 10 documents a day. In 2019, there were fewer such documents—3,491. So if the current trend holds, Ukrainian troops in the trenches may expect even more paperwork this year (Facebook.com/StanislavDiegtariev, February 17). Some service members joked to this author that they were members of the “Ukrainian paper army” (Author’s interviews, February 2021).All this seriously undermines troop morale and motivation, while also potentially explaining the mass personnel attrition in the Ukrainian Armed Forces over the past couple years, especially among those who experienced fighting in Donbas. Many of them say they joined the army to fight the enemy and push it off of Ukrainian soil. Instead, they must deal with a daily routine and obey orders that, in their eyes, does not bring victory any closer. Such sentiment, if widespread, is particularly dangerous during periods of heightened violence across the frontline and deliberate provocations from the Russian side (Zn.ua, March 3; see EDM, March 11).For now, the relatively high monthly salaries of up to 30,000 hryvna ($1,000) still attract many Ukrainians to sign a service contract with the military. This option has become particularly relevant amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, when many Ukrainians lost their jobs and have had to find other sources of income. Moreover, military service comes with crucial social safety net elements, including free housing, pensions and so on.The Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) is currently considering legislation that would allow the president to call up 150,000 military reservists without first declaring a general mobilization or martial law (Babel.ua, March 5). The successful ability to absorb such large numbers of service members into the Armed Forces—all while maintaining morale and preserving a high level of combat capabilities to resist Russian military aggression—is not a trivial matter. If this bill is adopted into law, it will add further urgency and necessity to adopt deeper reforms that bring the Ukrainian military in line with NATO standards.
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The curtains closed on yet another era in Jamaica’s rich political history when Portia Simpson Miller, a former Prime Minister and former President of the opposition People’s National Party (PNP) took her final bow and exited the building after being lauded by Parliamentarians on both sides of the house on Tuesday.During the special joint sitting of Parliament on Tuesday Simpson-Miller, who was first elected in 1976, said her journey was by no means easy but she is proud of her record, particularly in her constituency of St. Andrew South Western.An eldery resident of Majesty gardens chills outside his residence which is nestled in the former constituency of Portia Simpson Miller“I inherited a constituency with poor and inadequate housing, poor or no public infrastructure, poor health-care facilities, and limited access to special services,” she said, adding that the election of 1976 saw her “thrown into the deep enduring a period of extreme political violence”.She told colleagues that despite widespread criticism and the challenges, she fulfilled her mission.“In the early days, some said I could not read…. Is it not ironic, that now they say I read too much. While some judged me harshly I was determined to be who I wanted to be, not how others saw me. I speak of my harsh experiences, not with malice – that when the slings and arrows come at you, bind up your wounds, and focus on your dreams.”Prime minister Andrew Holness, in leading the tributes, pledged to ensure that Simpson Miller’s work as a champion of the poor, will continue to live on.“She is a metaphor of hope and faith . In her political carrier she has been placed against powerful personalities and has never been intimidated by a challenge. I am saying to you on your retirement, that there is a new defender of the poor people of Jamaica.”Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s first female Prime Minister and one of four Caribbean leaders, recalled her journey from the rural community of Wood Hall to Jamaica House.“I defied the odds…..and had a date with destiny.”In 2006, she took the reigns of government, when the baton was passed from then Prime Minister Percival James Patterson.The sitting was also the final one for Dr. Omar Davies, a former Minister of Finance under the People’s National Party.Omar Davies also bid farewellDavies, who represented the constituency of St. Andrew Southern since 1993, will, like Simpson Miller handed in his resignation on Thursday.The special sitting was attended by former Prime mInisters P.J .Patterson and Edward Seaga as well as the Speak of the House of Assembly in the Cayman Islands McKeeva Bush.A date for a by-election to fill the vacancies in Simpson Miller’s and Davies’ constituencies, is yet to be announced.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES KIKUYO, Kumamoto Pref. – Local favorite Aki Takamura got out of her sick bed to shoot a 2-under-par 70 Friday and take a one-shot lead in the first round of the 60 million yen Saishunkan Ladies golf tournament in Kumamoto Prefecture.Former U.S. LPGA tour winner Ayako Okamoto, meanwhile, rolled back the years with a 1-under 71 to move into second place just one stroke off the lead at Kumamoto Kuko Country Club alongside Fumiko Muraguchi and Harumi Sakagami.
The Ravens believe in taking the ‘best playeravailable model’ as their first commandment when it comes to the draft even ifthat player is at a position of strength over selecting a lesser player at aposition of need. Many thought the Ravens were going to take a wide receiver oran edge rusher at the spot that they took Dobbins, but they were both surprisedand delighted when he was available when they were on the clock. “He’s a great young back,” said Ingram. “He had agreat career at Ohio State. That’s what this league is all about. Especiallyrunning backs, being able to pay the game forward. I had guys that paid thegame forward to me so just being able to pass the game down, pass knowledgedown, anything he wants to know I’m there to help him, I’m there to supporthim.” The Ravens ran the ball more and with greaterefficiency than any team not just in 2019 but in league history. That’s 100years in case you were wondering. They ran for 3,296 yards without Dobbins’game-breaking ability as part of the equation. With him rounding out the alreadybeastly position group, the Ravens have all the horses they need field anotherelite ground game in 2020 with Ingram leading the way. His smash-mouth “big boy no little boy” running stylewas the perfect complement to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s electrifyinglyelusive rushing ability during his MVP campaign. He was the tone-setter forBaltimore’s offense and helped establish a rhythm and build up insurmountableleads in many of their league-leading 14 wins last season. Many were surprised when the Baltimore Ravens, who hadthe most dominant rushing attack in league history that rewrote NFL andfranchise record books, fortified a position group that was already atremendous strength and had great depth by selecting Ohio State running backJ.K. Dobbins with the 55th overall pick in this past April’s draft. However,veteran running back Mark Ingram wasn’t among the masses. We’ve been talking over the offseason, we’re finallyin the building together so that chemistry will keep getting stronger and I’llkeep helping him,” said Ingram. Dobbins reached out Ingram shortly after being draftedby the Ravens and the two have been in constant communication ever since andare both elated to finally be in the same building together after a virtual offseasonprogram where their position meetings were conducted via Zoom. Despite having Ingram under contact for the next twoseasons and showing no signs of attrition after nearly a decade in the league,having the equally as hardnosed running Gus ‘The Bus’ Edwards who has eclipsed700 yards rushing in back to back season and drafting change of pace backJustice Hill in the fourth round out of Oklahoma State last year, the Ravenscouldn’t pass up a talent like Dobbins who they and many others had a latefirst-round grade on in the middle of the second. “I’ve been in the league 10 years and I’ve never seena team that didn’t either bring in a running back or draft a running back,”said Ingram. “It’s the norm so it didn’t surprise me and I think that it was ahigh-value pick right there where we were at “You’re only as strong as your weakest link so you tryto bring everybody along, you try to have everybody play at a high level,everybody competing at a high level.” Ingram signed with the Ravens in free agency lastMarch on a respectable three-year deal worth $15 million. The formerfirst-round pick of the New Orleans Saints was a smashing hit in his firstseason in Baltimore. In addition to recording his third 1,000 plus yard seasonin the last four years, scoring a career-high 15 touchdowns fromscrimmage—tying a Ravens franchise record—and earning the third Pro Bowl nod ofhis career, Ingram became an instant fan favorite and one of the most prominentleaders in the locker room. Entering his 10th season in the league and set to turn31 in December, it’d be understandable if a veteran player like Ingram would bemiffed by their selection of his successor after he had such a great firstseason with the team and reluctant to share his secrets of the trade and thekey to his longevity at a position where the average shelf life is the shortestof any position in the league. Nope, not Ingram. He has sincerely and whole-heartedlyembraced the role of a mentor to the gifted rookie that his hungry and eager toeat into his snap count and isn’t taking the patient approach to his firstseason. Ingram sees it as his duty to impart wisdom and any tricks of the tradethat he’s learned over the years to the younger generation of running backs inthe way that was done to and for him. “We run the ball a lot. We put emphasis on running theball,” said Ingram. “Being able to have our backfield, me, Gus, Justice, add JKto the mix, I think its an elite backfield of guys who I think can startanywhere in this league, play anywhere in this league. We’ll be competing,we’ll be working, and we’ll be working together to have the best rushing attackagain.”Please follow and like us: