National resistance: history and modern challenges

The history of Ukraine in the 20th century is full of heroic pages of the struggle for the restoration of independence. After the First World War, the independent Ukrainian People’s Republic and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic emerged on Ukrainian lands, and on January 22, 1919, they merged into a single United State.

Unfortunately, the lack of agreement among the political leadership of that time led to the loss of state independence. However, the national resistance movement against the Russian-Bolshevik occupation continued to operate in Ukraine, the most famous representatives of which were the insurgents of the “Kholodny Yar” (from the area of ​​the same name in the Cherkasy region). Only through brutal repressions and Holodomors was the Kremlin able to subdue Ukrainians for some time.

The outbreak of the Second World War brought a new chance for Ukraine. On June 30, 1941, in Lviv, the Act of Restoration of the Ukrainian State was proclaimed on the initiative of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Stepan Bandera’s ally Yaroslav Stetsko was appointed Head of the Government. Shortly after the Ukrainians’ protest, the Nazis arrested the initiators of the Act and went ahead with a wave of bloody repressions. As a reaction to the Nazi occupation, the national resistance movement was launched with renewed vigor: the OUN clandestine network and partisan squads of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

The end of the Second World War did not bring peace to Ukrainian lands. Victory over Hitler’s Germany was made possible through the intensification of another evil – Stalin’s Soviet Union. The injustice of the peace achieved in relation to Ukraine and the legitimization of the Soviet occupation of Ukrainian lands led to the continued armed resistance, which lasted until the early 1960s. Moscow managed to subdue Ukrainians thanks to hundreds of thousands of punishers, repressions, and prisons.

The curtailment of the armed struggle did not lead to the extinction of the national resistance. Ukrainians all over the world kept on fighting at the diplomatic level, demanding isolation and new sanctions against the Soviet Union. Ukrainians and other enslaved peoples of the USSR resisted the communist system in prisons and camps. The uprisings in Kengir, Norilsk, and Vorkuta are only the most famous protests against totalitarianism. Moreover, after repressions eased, Ukrainian dissidents raised a new wave of resistance in the name of national and human rights.
The resistance of Ukrainian students in October 1990, which went down in history as the Granite Revolution, became one of the final nails in the coffin of the “evil empire”. In less than a year, on August 24, 1991, Ukraine regained its independence.

During almost 30 years of independence, the national resistance of Ukrainians has at least twice fundamentally changed the vector of development of the Ukrainian state. The Orange Revolution of 2004 brought democratization and civil liberties to Ukraine. The Revolution of Dignity of 2013 virtually thwarted Moscow’s plans for a creeping occupation of our state.

Russia’s armed aggression of 2014, the occupation of Crimea and parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – raised a new wave of national resistance of Ukrainians. Thanks to tens of thousands of soldiers and volunteers, the diaspora, which lobbied for the support of warring Ukraine and the provision of lethal weapons, the Russian “blitzkrieg” was choked. The enemy was forced to change strategy but did not abandon its plans.

It is no secret that the development of national resistance of Ukrainians to defend the statehood and independence of Ukraine in the modern Russian-Ukrainian war was extremely difficult. Improper organization of mobilization, especially in the beginning, problems with equipment and supplies – all this is just the tip of the iceberg. Volunteer units for some time even were outside the legal field. The issue of granting combatant status to volunteers has moved from the deadlock only last year. The problem of legal protection and the status of our citizens in the occupied territories, who perform the tasks of the Ukrainian special services, is still unresolved.

Despite the stabilization in the frontline, recurrent exacerbations and the growing likelihood of a full-scale offensive by the Russian Federation lead to unrest and panic in society. There is still no single system for preparing citizens for the active phase of the war and organizing resistance to the occupiers.

That is why, at the end of March this year, the Military Security Strategy was approved, which, in addition to Ukraine’s non-alternative course to NATO, enshrined the concept of “comprehensive defense”.

The essence of the concept is that Ukraine is not trying to achieve military parity with Russia in the number of armaments or size of the army, as this would lead to depletion and collapse of the economy, excessive militarization of society, and, as a consequence, a social explosion. In other words, Ukraine would become a kind of “DPRK” in the heart of Europe. If we cannot have as many troops as the Russians, then at least we can do our best to make the land “burn” under the occupiers’ feet. To establish organized, not spontaneous, national resistance to aggression.
For this purpose, a working group of military servicemen, veterans and volunteers worked and in late May registered the draft law № 5557 “On the fundamentals of national resistance” on behalf of the President. This bill offers a qualitatively new approach to the organization of Ukraine’s defense.

First. According to the draft law, general military training of citizens of Ukraine is introduced, regardless of sex. Starting from school and beyond, especially for citizens who have not served in the military.

Second. Territorial Defense Forces shall be a separate type of forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (after the Land, Air, Naval Forces, and Special Operations Forces). The territorial defense will now have two components:

  • military – military brigades (in each region (oblast) and battalions (in each district) of territorial defense,
  • volunteer – volunteer squads in territorial communities.

The latter, in particular, will be allowed to use their own hunting weapons to carry out territorial defense tasks.
In addition to the immediate tasks of protecting a certain area from the aggressor’s actions and protecting critical infrastructure objects, territorial defense forces can be engaged in protecting the population from emergencies. All territorial defense fighters, both military and volunteer, will be protected by law. There should not be any more shameful cases of lack of legal protection for volunteers, as in 2014.

Third. The bill regulates the resistance movement, which shall operate in the occupied territory, prevent the actions of the aggressor’s troops, participate in intelligence, information-psychological, and other special operations. Apart from Ukrainian citizens, foreigners and stateless persons will be able to join the resistance movement. All participants of the resistance movement will be able to obtain combatant status, social and legal protection on a par with military servicemen. This will apply in particular to our fellow citizens who are already performing tasks in the occupied territories

Despite the progressive nature of the draft law, it already has many critics. If the draft law №5557 is not adopted in the second reading, the issue of establishing national resistance, according to the Budget Code, will be postponed at least until 2023, which could be fatal given the ongoing war with Russia.

The lack of unity in society and misunderstandings between politicians over a century ago led to the loss of statehood and independence of Ukraine. For more than 70 years, as our history shows, thanks to national resistance, we have fought for the cherished freedom, which we now defend with weapons in our hands. Now we have another chance, at least one step closer, to move towards our age-long dream – to protect ourselves from the eternal enemy and confidently pave the way to the family of free peoples of Europe. To become a full-fledged part of the democratic world.

It depends only on us whether we waste another chance or whether we will finally be able to prepare for a full-scale war that threatens us for the eighth year in a row.

Only in Unity is our strength, Freedom and Glory of Ukraine!

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