Ukraine (Україна) was formerly a socialist republic within the Soviet Union, and the largest country on the European continent. Following a failed military coup d'etat that resulted in the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine established its independence on 16 July 1990. The Armed Forces of Ukraine (Збройні сили України - ЗСУ) were formed in August of 1991, when jurisdiction over all formations of the old Soviet Armed Forces stationed in Ukraine were transferred under the control of the new republic.
Many manufacturing facilities were maintained in Ukraine under Soviet control, and these in turn also transferred ownership with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. These included a number of factories for manufacturing textiles and military uniforms, which continued to produce camouflage uniforms not only for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but for many of its neighbors including Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, and Moldova. With a few exceptions, camouflage patterns produced in the Ukraine have always had distinctive color features (as well as unique factory markings) that make them generally easy to distinguish from those produced in neighboring Russia. As such, Ukraine is one of the only former Soviet republics to enjoy a long standing tradition of producing its own camouflage uniforms rather than importing them or copying the designs of its neighbors. In the modern era, however, an increasingly large number of commercial products have been reaching military units of this former Soviet republic, with the result that such distinctions are becoming less and less common.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine consist of the Ground Forces (Сухопутні Війська), Air Force (Повітряні Сили), and the Naval Forces (Військово-Морські Сили). The National Guard of Ukraine (Националня гвардія України), a reserve force under the directive of the Ministry of Internal Affairs ( Міністерство внутрішніх справ) or MVS, also existed from 1991 to 2000, but was disbanded reputedly as a cost-saving measure. The Guard has since been re-established since March 2014. The MVS also administrate the Internal Troops of Ukraine (Внутрішні війська України) or VV, which function primarily as a gendarmerie-type agency, the Federal Police (мiлiцiя) (including the Special Police or Бе́ркут - Berkut), and The Security Service (Служба Безпеки).
Although not yet a member, Ukraine enjoys a distinctive partnership with NATO and has joined in many military exercises with member nations, as well as peacekeeping efforts under United Nations sanction.
A serious political crisis struck the Ukraine beginning in February 2014, leading to violent clashes between civilians and Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, and the subsequent formation of militia-type groups with pro-Russian leanings in certain regions of the nation. The origins of this strife can be traced to the failure of former president Viktor Yanukovych to sign an agreement with the European Union that would have provided support for a restructuring of the failing Ukrainian socio-economic system (heretofore plagued by corruption, mismanagement and devalued currency). The former president instead signed a treaty with Russia which resulted in widespread civil dissent, violence in several major cities, and ultimately to the exodus of Yanukovych. Although an interim government was formed that supported an association agreement with the EU, tension remained when Russia refused to recognize the new leadership and accused the USA and the EU of orchestrating a coup d'etat. From the end of February, political and social unrest has plagued the southeastern part of this country, including Crimea, Donatsk, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, Odessa, Zaporizhia, Kharkiv, and Dnipropetrovsk, all of whom claim pro-Russian sympathies to one degree or another. This has ranged from simple protests and the occupation of Regional State Administration (RSA) buildings to armed insurgency in Donatsk and annexation of the Crimea by Russian forces. The Donbass People's Militia (Народное ополчение Донбасса) is currently operating against Ukrainian government forces in Donatsk.
Ukrainian Camouflage Patterns
- The earliest camouflage patterns produced by an independent Ukraine were variants of the Soviet-designed 1988 TTsKO (Trisvetnaia kamuflirovannaia odezhda). As with those produced during the Soviet period (and by Russia thereafter), Ukrainian factories have turned out several versions of the pattern incorporating varied color schemes. Unlike virtually every other former Soviet republic, Ukraine continues to wear versions of this pattern, which is the standard camouflage design of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The pattern is known as bytan (butane) in Ukraine. Illustrated below are several Ukrainian-made variations of the bytan pattern that we have collected.
- Some units of the armed forces continue to wear the old Soviet-era KLMK uniforms, called береза (bereza) or "birch." This has been observed most recently on some Ukrainian units operating in the Crimea.
- The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs (Міністерство внутрішніх справ України) or MVS issues a number of blue or purple-based "urban" pattern camouflage uniforms, most of which are based on the 1988 TTsKO drawings. These patterns are largely worn by special units of the MVS, such as Berkut, Kobra, etc.
- The MVS also wear urban patterns that utilize different sets of drawings, including m81 woodland style and others. Seen below is one such pattern, also worn by Berkut and other special units.
- Some Ukrainian Police units also wear a copy of the Russian MVD Тень (Ten) or "shadow" pattern, a derivative of tiger stripe with a blue/grey colorway.
- Ground and Airbase Defense Units of the Ukrainian Air Force have worn an interesting variation of the US m81 woodland design with black, brown & olive green woodland shapes on a lichen green background, although as yet we have not been able to locate very extensive documentation.
- Since the late 1990s, the Ukrainian Federal Border Guards have worn a locally-made copy of the US m81 woodland pattern. This differs considerably from that worn by some Air Force Ground units. The Border Guard pattern incorporates black, brown & forest green woodland shapes on a tan background.
- Since 2003, Ukrainian military personnel deployed to arid or desert regions have been issued a two-colour desert version of the standard Ukrainian TTsKO camouflage pattern. Several colour variations have been documented exist. The brown parts of this pattern corresponds to the brown parts of the TTsKO.
- The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine (Державна прикордонна служба України) wears a pixelated camouflage pattern seen here. It has been established that some color or shade difference exist, probably a result of different manufacturing sources.
- Ukrainian Airborne Troops, Special Operations/Reconnaissance units, and some Air Force personnel have all been documented wearing locally-produced copies of the German Army flecktarn pattern.
- Introduced early in 2013, a new pixelated camouflage design for the Ukrainian Armed Forces is now in circulation. Nevertheless, the older patterns will remain in service for several years until stocks are depleted.
- First observed in 2014, an arid/desert pixelated camouflage design has also been adopted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. This design features shades of grey, tan & sand.
- Also appearing in the 2013-2014 time frame was a new pixelated camouflage pattern worn by the Ukrainian Interior Troops (Внутрішні війська України). This appears to be a re-colouration of the same design worn by the Border Guards, but having a primarily grey tone.
- Locally-made copies of Multicam have been documented in use by several units of the Armed Forces. One of the primary users has been Special Unit Alpha of the SBU; however, it may also be used sporadically by some conventional personnel.
- Two additional camouflage designs emerged during the 2014 period, produced by the private company жаба (zhaba or "toad"), and worn by Ukrainian troops deployed to the region of conflict. The designs are obviously related, one having a bright green colorway intended for heavily vegetated regions, and the other a sandy-tan colorway for arid and desert areas.
- In July 2015, it was announced that the Army's 79th Airmobile Brigade would adopt its own distinctive camouflage design, the ВАРАН ВСУ (Varan VSU or Varan pattern of the Ukrainian Military Forces). In addition to the standard two-dimensional version of this design, a three-dimensional or "textured" version has also been produced, but it is uncertain in what capacity this version will be utilized.
- A Special Rapid Reaction Unit unit of the Ukrainian Police known as КОРД (KORD or "Cordoba") was formed in March 2016 and has replaced the former special police units such as "Falcon," "Griffin" "Golden Eagle", and "Titan." Members of this unit are equipped in a locally-made copy of the A-TACS AU camouflage seen here.
- Members of the Ukraianian Miliitsiya (міліція) or Police Forces have been documented wearing a locally-produced camouflage design that is heavily influenced by the German-designed flecktarn pattern. The Ukrainian-made version incorporates more shades of brown than the German version, and in this regard bears some resemblance to the old TTsKO design of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Other Camouflage Patterns in Use by Ukrainian Forces
- Several photographs dating to 2012 show Ukrainian personnel wearing the commercially available A-TACS Arid camouflage design, and videos from 2014 illustrate the same uniforms being worn. At present we are uncertain which specific units have been wearing the pattern.
- The unique commercial camouflage design seen below was first observed during the civil strife of 2014, worn by special internal security personnel of the MVS (Міністерство внутрішніх справ). The pattern is known as Хищник or "Predator."
- During the internal conflict of early 2014, widespread use of surplus camouflage clothing articles was observed on many of the civilian protesters. Included in this mix were German flecktarn, British DPM, and copies of US-designed MARPAT, UCP and Multicam. Various commercial hunting designs have also been observed. When Ukrainian units were mobilized and deployed to the Crimean region to counter a potential takeover by Russian forces and later to eastern Ukraine to fight seperatists troops, many military personnel were also observed wearing surplus British Army DPM uniforms in both standard woodland/jungle as well as desert pattern and the other patterns described above.
Camouflage Worn by Pro-Russian Militias
- Although nearly impossible to document the full-spectrum of camouflage designs worn by various armed groups operating in Southeast Ukraine, several camouflage designs (mostly of Russian origin) have appeared in significant numbers to warrant documentation. These include the pixelated design called Spectre-S Skvo, among others.
- The Russian firm Magellan (Магеллан) produces commercial combat uniforms in a number of camouflage patterns, including a five-color design called Песок (Sand). The design incorporates beige, olive green, tan and black shapes on a light grey background, and has been documented in use by Russian militia (ополчение) operating in the Crimean region of Ukraine.
- A copy of the Chinese Army's PLA Tibet Region fleck pattern, made by the Russian firm Splav, has seen some use by militias loyal to Russia. The pattern is also known in Russian as Tibet.