This year’s Day of the Navy celebration in Odessa was a jovial event full of veteran remembrance and of seemingly positive prospects for the rebuilding of the nation’s decimated navy. President Poroshenko visited the Black Sea Port to take part of festivities and to underline that the Ukrainian Government’s efforts.
July 3rd marked this year’s Day of the Navy in Odessa. The central Deribasovskaya street was flooded with people decked out in white and navy striped shirts – including the picturesque sailors in their full ensembles – enjoying the live bands, photo opportunities and the pop-up flea markets. The young marines wandered the city with their colors in hand. This was a happy celebration, belying the fact that Ukraine had lost around 70% of its fleet due to the annexation of Crimea and the fact that many of sailors who had not defected to Russia and relocated from Crimea are still lacking welfare benefits. Odessa it should be recalled, became the base for Ukraine’s fleet in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In his speech at the day’s event, President Petro Poroshenko admitted that the government “does not currently meet the comprehensive needs of the Ukrainian Navy.” However, the president also outlined a serious effort to restructure the fleet. Recent events in Ukraine suggest that this restructuring could be possible.
Back in April, Poroshenko ousted Vice Admiral Sergei Haiduk as the head of Ukraine’s Navy forces and replaced him with General Igor Voronchenko. The General does not have any navy experience or training, but with his Army rank, Vorochenko is one of the few Generals in recent history that has valuable frontline experience. The appointment raised eyebrows for being unconventional, but general Voroshenko has a good reputation among his peers in the armed forces and is widely thought to be a capable leader and a patriot. Voronchenko’s temporary assignment was made confirmed by president Petro Poroshenko during the Day of the Navy, and he is the first Commander of the Naval Forces of Ukraine to never have served in the Navy.
Poroshenko mentioned that the Chief of Staff, Viktor Muzhenko Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Stepan Poltorak both agree that funding the Navy is a priority. On June 2nd, the Navy announced plans to acquire 30 new vessels and upgrade its existing training facilities by the year 2020. With a price tag of $20 million (USD), these resources are intended to be useful in Ukraine’s standing against the Russian-backed rebels in the country’s restive east.
Afterward, Poroshenko also conferred the name of special-unit commander Yuriy Olefirenko to the Kirovohrad amphibious assault ship. Olefirenko was noted to have been a hard-working commander gave up his life while defending the Donbas region from occupation.