On February 15, Ukraine pays tribute to its peacekeepers on the Day of Participants of Combat Operations on the Territories of Foreign Countries.
After gaining its independence, Ukraine has made a significant contribution to the cause of strengthening peace and stability in European region and in the world. Since 1992, more than 45,000 Ukrainian servicemen have taken part in international peacekeeping operations in many regions of the world. Since then, 51 of them have sacrificed their lives and over 100 have been wounded while fulfilling their peacekeeping duties.
Glorious pages of Ukraine’s peacekeeping were opened in early 1990s, when political contradictions and civil processes have become the catalyst of military confrontations and armed conflicts in certain countries of Europe, particularly in Yugoslavia.
In 1992, to peacefully resolve Yugoslavia’s conflict, which became the bloodiest confrontation in Europe since World War II, the UN Secretary General addressed our country’s leadership to provide Ukrainian military contingent to UN forces in the conflict zone. During the following three weeks Ukraine formed its first peacekeeping unit – the 240th separate battalion, which included servicemen from all over the country.
On July 15, 1992, two planes with Ukrainian peacekeepers took off from Dnitropetrovsk airfield in direction of Bosnia. The first group included 42 servicemen. After landing in Sarajevo, Ukrainian peacekeepers found themselves right away in the epicenter of combat operation, since the city and its airport were strafed by artillery and snipers. Many years had passed before in 2013 this date was designated by Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine as the Day of Ukrainian Peacekeepers, with its annual celebration on the national level.
For over more than two decades, Ukrainian peacekeepers have participated in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eastern Slavonia, Angola, F.Y.R. of Macedonia, Guatemala, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Croatia, Kuwait, Sierra-Leone, Transnistria, Iraq, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Georgia, South Sudan, Cote d’Ivoir, DR Congo.
Over the course of modern history of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, their broadest participation was in peacekeeping operation in Iraq, wherein in 2003-2008 Ukrainian military took part in Iraqi War, as part of the coalition forces led by the United States. During those years, 1690 servicemen of Ukraine were involved in the process of bringing peace and stability to Iraq, 18 of them lost their lives and more than 40 got wounded. Ukrainian peacekeepers were side-by-side with American and Polish soldiers.
Interesting to note that in order to avoid radio surveillance during Iraqi campaign, Ukrainian servicemen used only Ukrainian language with coded Ukrainian words, since English and Russian were well understood in this country. So, Ukrainian veterans, who went through Iraqi campaign, admitted that native language saved their lives on numerous occasions during the conflict.
As one of the founding states of the UN and a responsible member of international community, Ukraine till these days continues to play an active role in peacekeeping missions, making an important contribution along with other countries in strengthening peace and stability, resolution of armed conflicts and prevention of new centers of tension.
Such an approach to our country’s participation in security processes strengthens its international positions and national security, facilitates emergence of new opportunities for deepening economic cooperation with respective countries. From the standpoint of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, which are spared of burden of being an active side to military conflicts, participation in peacekeeping activities gives opportunity to get familiar with other countries’ experience in the field of defense planning and military reform, as well as to gain skills of comprehensive support of military activities in the field.
Nowadays, one of the main regions of Ukraine’s peacekeeping activity is African continent, where Ukrainian servicemen, as part of the UN missions, facilitate resolution of unstable situation in Liberia, Sudan, DR Congo, and Cot d’Ivoire. Ukrainian peacekeepers also take part in NATO missions, specifically in Kosovo Force and Active Endeavour operations, and as part of International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Aside from that, Armed Forces of Ukraine are involved in Joint Peacekeeping Forces in Transnistria and in EU’s anti-piracy operation Atalanta.
Overall, currently more than 600 Ukrainian servicemen participate in 10 different peacekeeping operations all over the world, who continuing the noble tradition, facilitate the resolution of armed conflicts. It is the intention of the Ukrainian state to go on with peacekeeping activity, fulfilling its international responsibilities and contributing to peace and stability on our planet.
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