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Ukraine: National Guard Restored

(Apr. 4, 2014) On March 13, 2014, 262 out of 330 registered members of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s legislature) voted to pass the Law on the National Guard of Ukraine (Law of Ukraine No. 876-VII on the National Guard of Ukraine [in Ukrainian] (Mar. 13, 2014), Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine website). The National Guard, which existed in Ukraine from 1990 to 2000 but was disbanded by then President Leonid Kuchma as a cost-saving measure, has been restored amid rising tensions caused by the Russian annexation of Crimea. (Verkhovna Rada Established the National Guard of Ukraine [in Russian], KORRESPONDENT.NET (Mar. 13, 2014).) The Law entered into force immediately after its publication.

Definition and Main Duties of the National Guard

The Law defines the National Guard as a

military organization with law enforcement functions that is overseen by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (police). Its purpose is to protect and preserve the freedoms and lawful interests of citizens and the country against criminal acts and to protect public order and safety as well as to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies in protection of the Ukrainian border. (Law on the National Guard, art. 1.1.)

The National Guard’s duties also include counterterrorism and defense against illegal paramilitary groups. (Id.)

According to its charter, the National Guard cooperates with the Armed Forces of Ukraine in responding to armed aggression against the country and providing for its territorial defense. (Id. art. 1.2.) During peace time, the National Guard acts as a law enforcement agency. (Id. art.12.)

Supervision of the National Guard

The Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine will conduct military, political, and administrative oversight of the National Guard. The Commander of the National Guard, who is appointed by the Verkhovna Rada based on its consideration of a nomination submitted by the President of Ukraine, will be responsible for direct military and administrative leadership of the Guard. (Id. arts. 6 & 7.) According to the Law, the Guard will employ up to 60,000 personnel. If necessary, this number can be increased or changed by the Ukrainian Parliament (Id. art. 5.7.)

The Guard’s Composition and Budget

The National Guard will be composed of military and civilian personnel, including soldiers performing military service under contract and on-call reserve personnel who are ready for duty. (Id. art. 9.) Persons who have had a criminal conviction and have served time in prison may not participate in the Guard. However, this restriction does not apply to those whose prison conviction was overturned or expunged from the record. An individual will be banned from the National Guard if he or she was sentenced to administrative punishment for committing a corruption offense during the year preceding service. (Id. art. 6.1.)

The National Guard of Ukraine is funded from the national budget of Ukraine and may use other financial sources not prohibited by Ukrainian law. (Id. art. 22.)

Related Developments

Because of the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation and threats of further Russian military invasion, on March 17, 2014, the Acting President of Ukraine ordered the mobilization of reserve military personnel to serve in the National Guard during the 45-day period following that date. (Decree of the President of Ukraine on Partial Mobilization [in Ukrainian] (Mar. 17, 2014), Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine website.) It was reported that 20,000 Ukrainians were summoned to the newly established training camps of the National Guard. (Verkhovna Rada Established the National Guard of Ukraine, supra.)

While the National Guard has assumed law enforcement responsibility as part of the Ukraine government’s consolidation of domestic control, on April 1, 2014, the Verkhovna Rada also unanimously passed a law immediately banning and disarming all voluntary paramilitary groups around the country. (Andrew Roth, Ukraine Moves to Disarm Paramilitary Groups, THE NEW YORK TIMES (Apr. 1, 2014).)

Prepared by Olena Yatsunska, affiliated researcher, under the supervision of Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research.