Ukraine Army Can't Pay To Feed Overseas peacekeeper troops

KIEV, Ukraine -- Cash shortages have left Ukraine's military unable to feed peacekeeping troops deployed overseas, Sehodnia newspaper reported Friday. Ukraine's Ministry of Defence for peacekeeper troop maintenance has thus far been budgeted 9.2 million dollars, against a planned 40 million dollars, said Viktor Korendonovych, an Army spokesman.

Ukrainian peacekeepers in the Middle East.

"At this rate, we will not be able to feed out troops past May," he said.

Peacekeeping operations affected by the shortage would include Ukrainian troop deployments to Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.

The first two operations are under UN control. Less than 10 Ukrainians were working with NATO forces in Afghanistan, according to Ministry of Defence statements.

The Ukrainian mission to Liberia is of some local importance locally, as the Ukrainians operate one of the few relatively reliable helicopter transport units in the region.

Withdrawal of the Ukrainian helicopter squadron from Liberia is now impossible, Korendonovych said, as there is not enough money to pay to bring the aircraft home.

Since January, Kiev has attempted to reduce expenditures with dramatic cuts to funds supplied to state agencies, particularly ones not contributing to the economy. Among the hardest-hit has been the Ukrainian military.

A plan to convert Ukraine's still-substantial draftee army to a modern professional standard has become impossible, as the country lacks sufficient funds to pay professional soldiers, army officials said last week.

More than 550 Ukrainians currently are serving abroad in peacekeeping missions.

The duty is highly sought within the Ukrainian military as salaries average from 700 to 2,000 dollars a month - well below rates paid in European armies, but still some ten times what a Ukrainian soldier currently earns at home.

Source: DPA