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History of the Ukrainian Military
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The Ukrainian Naval Force (Ukrainian: Військово-Морські Сили України, ВМСУ, Viys’kovo-Mors’ki Syly Ukrayiny, VMSU) is the navy of Ukraine and part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It was established in 1992. It consists of 5 branches: surface forces, submarine forces, Navy aviation, coast rocket-artillery and marines.[1] The Navy numbers 15,470 people.[2]

The navy operates in the Black Sea basin (including Sea of Azov and Danube Delta),[1] as a permanent ocean presence is neither logistically practical nor geographically possible. Hence it is a green-water navy.

The Headquarters of the Ukrainian Naval Force is situated in Sevastopol.[1]




Early history

The first naval activities in the area now known as Ukraine date back to the late Middle Ages, when Zaporizhian Host Cossacks conducted raids in the Lower Dnieper, Southern Buh rivers and the Black Sea against Ottoman Empire. Cossacks were using chaikas [3]- light vessels propelled by sail and rowing, and armed with light hand held cannons. By a simple but genius technology, chaika could be transformed into a makeshift shallow-waters submarine used for reconnaissance and surprise landings. Cossack sea raids delivered huge blows to Ottoman coast cities, including capital port city of Constantinople/Istanbul. However, Cossacks never had either permanent ports on coast or the will to become a sea power.


During 1917 Russian Revolution, several ships of the Russian Imperial Navy's Black Sea Fleet, commanded and crewed by ethnic Ukrainians, declared themselves the Navy of the newly-autonomous Ukrainian People's Republic. However, few further steps on establishing a navy were made as the Ukrainian government lost control over coastal territories.

After the Revolution 1917, a time of anarchy and demoralization overtook the former Russian Black Sea Fleet. The Fleet, stationed in Sevastopol, was commanded by a collective, "Centroflot". Different political influences clashed: Ukrainian, Bolshevik, Menshevik, Social Revolutionaries and Anarchist. Very different flags were hoisted over ships: Ukrainian bicolors, old Russian ensigns, Bolshevist red flags and Anarchist black flags.[4] They were hoisted and lowered even several times daily, according to changes of each crew's political orientation. The Ukrainian People's Republic aspired to take control of the Fleet. On 22 December 1917 the Naval Ministry in Kiev was established.

Gunboat "Donets" of Ukrainian Naval Forces, July-November 1918

Starting October 1917 the crews of the ships established military councils; the blue-yellow flags were flying from the masts. The destroyers Zavidniy (Enviable) and Pamyat Merkuriya were the first examples. The General Secretariat for Naval Affairs was established within the government of the Central Rada in Kiev (in January 1918 it was reformed in a Ministry). The head of it became D. Antonovich. The Main Navy Staff was led by Captain Yu. Svirski. For the educational and agitational purposes of the seamen the Central Rada seconded the commissars to Odessa, Nikolaev, Kherson and Sevastopol. November 22, 1917 the whole crew of the newest and most powerful warship of the Black Sea Fleet Volya swore fealty to the Central Rada, followed soon by several ships and submarines. On 29 April 1918, Rear-admiral M. Sablin was appointed commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Navy. A telegram to Kiev was sent from the staff ship Georgiy Pobedonosets “Effective today the Sevastopol fortress and the Fleet in Sevastopol raised the Ukrainian flag. Admiral Sablin assumed the command of the Fleet”. Having no reply the admiral ordered to repeat the telegram beginning with the words “Comrades of Kiev Central Rada…”. But Sablin was unaware that at that moment the Central Rada in Kiev was already history.

Medal of Ukrainian fleet, 1918.

Ukraine had a navy for five months. From October 1917 till March 1918 the following came to be at the disposal of the Ukrainians: nine battleships, seven cruisers, 18 destroyers, 14 submarines, 16 patrol ships and avisos, 11 military transports and mother ships. Additionally, the Fleet’s Headquarters, all military institutions and plants, all coastal fortifications were in hands of the Ukrainians. But they were yet to face a disaster.

The Kaiser’s forces had been advancing on Sevastopol with a goal to capture the Black Sea Fleet. Having no support from the land forces, Admiral Sablin was forced enter negotiations regarding cessation of hostilities. The Germans however rejected the armistice proposals and the advance continued.

In April 1918 German and Ukrainian troops invaded Crimea. On 29 April 1918, fleet-commanding Rear-admiral Sablin (Russian) gave an order to hoist Ukrainian national flags over all ships in Sevastopol (the medal to the right commemorates that event). But Germans started to occupy Sevastopol, because the bolsheviks began to lead away ships. Centroflot (the combined fleet revolutionary committee), in order to save the Fleet, took a decision to move it to Novorossiysk. But on April 30, 1918, only the small part of the fleet under command of Admiral Sablin, which trusted the bolsheviks, headed for Novorossiysk and hoisted Russian St. Andrew (saltire) ensigns. The greater part of the Ukrainian fleet remained in Sevastopol - there were 30 destroyers and torpedo boats, 25 auxiliaries, 7 battleships and small craft as well as 15 submarines left in Sevastopol under Admiral Myhaylo Ostrogradskiy who in this situation assumed command.

Ukrainian marines in 1921

On 1 May 1918 Germans captured the ships remaining in Sevastopol, because the actions of Bolsheviks violated the peace agreement. On 17 June 1918, 1 dreadnought and 6 destroyers returned from Novorossiysk to Sevastopol, where they were also captured. The greater part of the ships remaining in Novorossiysk were destroyed by their own crews on Lenin's command. In July-November 1918 Germans gradually transferred many ships to the command of Ukrainian government (Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi). The main Ukrainian sea power concentrated in Odessa and Nikolayev was more than 20 minesweepers, 7 small cruisers, 1 dreadnought and more than 30 auxiliaries. In Sevastopol there were only 2 old battleships under Ukrainian flags. On 18 July 1918 the Naval Ministry in Kiev established new naval ensigns and some rank flags (e.g. flag of Naval Minister, flag of Deputy Minister). The old Russian jack remained as Ukrainian naval jack. It was regarded as symbol of glory of Black Sea Fleet, whose crews were in large part previously Ukrainian. On 17 September Germans gives Ukraine 17 U-boats. In December 1918, when naval forces of the Entente were approaching Sevastopol, Ukrainian Rear-admiral W. Klochkowskyy (В'ячеслав Клочковський) commanded all ships to hoist Russian St. Andrew (saltire) ensigns. It was a demonstration of good intentions for the Entente. However, the Entente captured the Black Sea Fleet and subsequently transferred it to the Russian "White" forces. In Ukrainian hands remained only small in numbers subdivisions of marines. Ukrainian naval authorities existed until 1921.

Establishment of the modern Ukrainian navy

Emblem of Ukrainian Navy
FIAV 000001.svg Ukrainian Navy Ensign

In September 1991 at Sevastopol the Union of Ukrainian officers was organized on the initiative of major V.V. Kholoduk, captain-liatenant I.O. Tenyukh, M.P. Guk.[5] This union become the initiator and nucleus of organization group of the Navy of Ukraine.

Early in 1992, part of the Black Sea Fleet personnel had begun to swear allegiance to the people of Ukraine. Starting in January, the Ukrainian oath was taken by the personnel of the Training Company at the Naval Diving School, the 880th Detached Battalion of the Naval Infantry (Marines) Brigade, and various naval surface ships.[5]

The current history of the Ukrainian Naval Forces started on August 1, 1992 when it was formally established by order of the President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk. This was followed by a long and controversial partition of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet between newly independent Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

One of the episodes of this process was the story of the SKR-112 - effectively the first Ukrainian Navy ship[6]. On July 20, 1992, the crew of SKR-112 declared itself a Ukrainian ship and raised the Ukrainian flag. The Navy headquarters in Moscow considered this a mutiny and attempted to act accordingly. But the ship left its base on the Crimean peninsula for Odessa, causing an armed chase and collision attempts by ships still loyal to Moscow. Soon several other ships, auxiliary vessels, and coastal units of the Black Sea Fleet followed SKR-112's decision but with less violent outcomes.

It was only in 1997 that the ships and equipment of the Black Sea Fleet were officially divided between the two countries. The new Russian formation retained its historical name "Black Sea Fleet". It was also granted rights to use the majority of its bases on the Crimea Peninsula, Ukraine on a renewable ten-year lease at least until 2017. The newly established Ukrainian Naval Forces received dozens of vessels (mostly obsolete or inoperative) and some shore-based infrastructure. However, the Russian Navy lost several important facilities, most notably NITKA (Russian acronym for "Scientific testing simulator for shipborne aviation "), the naval aviation training facility in central Crimea, and the special forces base in Ochakiv. The process of fleet division remains painful since many aspects of the two navies' co-existence are under-regulated, causing recurring conflicts.

In the years since 1997 most of the Ukrainian naval units were scrapped or poorly maintained. By 2009, only the frigate Hetman Sahaidachny was capable of long endurance missions.[7]

Joint exercises of the Ukrainian Navy and the Russian Black Sea Fleet where resumed after a seven-year interval in 2010.[8]

Current role

The Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is aimed at defense of sovereignty and state interests of Ukraine in the sea. It is required to neutralize enemy naval groups in its operational zone both alone and with other branches of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and provide assistance from the sea to the Ground Forces during their operations. Main tasks of the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are the:[1]

  • creation and maintenance of the combat forces on a level, sufficient to deter maritime aggression;
  • neutralization of enemy naval forces;
  • destruction of enemy transportation;
  • support of the landing of amphibious forces and fight against enemy amphibious forces;
  • maintenance of a beneficial operational regime in the operational zone;
  • defense of its bases, sea lines of communications;
  • protection of submarine space within the territorial sea;
  • protection of the merchant fleet, maritime oil and gas industry, and other state maritime activity;
  • assistance to the Army in their conduct of operations (military actions) along maritime axes;
  • participation in peacekeeping operations.

Major Ships and Vessels

Left to right, U402 Kontyantyn Olshansky, U401 Kirovohrad, U154 Kahovka, U209 Ternopil, U153 Pryluky.

The Navy 2008/09 consisted of:

other vessels also in service

Recent deployments

On December 19, 2008 U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor stated that Ukrainian Defense Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates were discussing the transfer of one to three U.S. navy frigates to Ukraine.[9] In December 2009 the design for a new corvette (designed exclusively by Ukraine and assembled at Ukrainian shipyards) for the Ukrainian Navy was completed.[10]

Aircraft inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Versions In service Notes
Antonov An-26 Curl  Soviet Union Transport An-26 7
Mil Mi-8 Hip  Soviet Union Transport Helicopter Mi-8 8
Mil Mi-14 Haze  Soviet Union anti-submarine Helicopter Mi-14PL 5
Beriev Be-12  Soviet Union Maritime patrol aircraftr Be-12 6
Kamov Ka-29  Soviet Union Assault transport helicopter Ka-29 16
Kamov Ka-27 Helix  Soviet Union anti-submarine Helicopter Ka-27/-28 21

Command, Control & Organization


The Commandant of the Navy since March 23, 2006 is Admiral Igor Tenyuh.

Name Rank Period of command
Borys Kozhin Vice Admiral April 7, 1992 - October 1993
Volodymyr Bezkorovainiy Vice Admiral October 1993 - October 1996
Mykhailo Ezhel Admiral October 28, 1996 - May 20, 2003
Ihor Kniaz Vice Admiral May 21, 2003 - March 23, 2006
Igor Tenyuh Admiral March 23, 2006 - present

Ranks and insignia


The main base of the Ukrainian Navy is located in Sevastopol[1]. Other bases are:

See also

References and External links


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