The parlous state of the Ukrainian army has been amply demonstrated by a series of military accidents over the past fifteen years. In 2000, a rocket launched during target practice struck an apartment building near Kyiv. In 2001, a land-based missile aimed at destroying a drone instead struck a Russian passenger jet over the Black Sea, killing all on board. In 2002, an air display took a tragic turn when a fighter jet crashed into the crowd.
Most of Ukraine's weapons date back to the Soviet era, according to the military expert Valentin Badrak. This places the country "one generation of weapons" behind developed countries. A shortage of replacement parts has meant that only a handful of Soviet fighter jets are actually operational: Most pilots' training is purely theoretical. The planes themselves only have around half the fuel they need - if that.
Things don't look much better at sea. Russia sailed away with most of the former Soviet republic's Black Sea fleet when it was finally divided up in 1997. Today, Ukraine has just a couple of operational ships and a single diesel submarine. Russia's Black Sea fleet now stationed in Crimea dwarfs all that Ukraine has at its disposal.
Like its predecessors, the last government of the deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych gave little thought to the army. "The government doesn't want to deal with it," wrote military expert Mykola Sunhurovski of the Kyiv-based Rasumkov Centre NGO in a newspaper article last summer.Ukraine agreed to downsize its ability to protect itself, thanks to an agreement signed by Boris Yeltsin, Bill Clinton and John Major, back in 1994. None of whom are around much anymore.