1. "They are preparing unpleasant surprises." What is happening at the front
  2. Without mobilization, there will be no rotation. Ways out
  3. "Syrskyi is a systematic person." What the war changed at NGU

The Russians are preparing "unpleasant surprises" for the Defense Forces in unexpected areas. Perhaps they will have some achievements and will be able to fulfill 10-15% of their goals, Oleksandr Pivnenko, commander of the National Guard of Ukraine, tells

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The Ukrainian army will face several difficult months of Russian offensive, he adds. But it will not bring them a strategic victory: "Now they will not bring such problems that the commanders of the Defense Forces will run in panic and not know what to do. We are getting ready."

The main thing is to have a sufficient number of well-trained personnel, the commander stresses. To achieve this, it is necessary to increase the pace of mobilization, to work more actively with recruitment, and to change the perception of military service, which people are currently simply afraid of.

The commander of the National Guard, Brigadier General Oleksandr Pivnenko, told how acute the shortage of people and weapons in the army is, how the National Guard works with personnel, and what to expect from the Russian summer offensive.

"They are preparing unpleasant surprises." What is happening at the front Do you have any internal sense of when the situation with mobilization and the military shortage might stabilize?

Oleksandr Pivnenko: My subjective vision says that in the summer. Or when the enemy intensifies its intentions to move deeper into Ukraine in other directions.

Are you talking about attempts to take Kharkiv? Or is it something else?

Maybe it is about Kharkiv. Maybe it's about Sumy. Maybe it's about the Zaporizhzhya axis. Chasiv Yar is also an important story for them. They will not forget about it. We know this.

If they start to realize their intentions, there will be a new surge of resistance, understanding of the threat, and more volunteers. This is the way our society works: the more pressure we are under, the more we unite.

At the beginning of spring, there were predictions that in May the Russians would go on an operational pause to recuperate. And we would get a chance to advance. Now it looks like there will be no pause?

Why do the Russians need it? Their mobilization is in full swing. They are quietly recruiting 30,000 people a month. They don't actually feel the loss of human resources and equipment.

"We need to double their losses. If we doubled or tripled them for six straight months, we would have a certain result by the end of the year."

But if we give them two or three years to rest, they will recover and invade Ukraine with renewed vigor. Ukraine's development path will resemble Israel's, taking into account our specifics.

We will not leave the war footing. Otherwise, they will slowly take away Ukraine two or three meters at a time, using the tactic of a creeping offensive. And in 20 years they will devour us completely.

Russians preparing unpleasant surprises, National Guard Commander Oleksandr Pivnenko warns
Oleksandr Pivnenko (Photo: Valentina Polishchuk/

The question is not about their leader. There is a problem with their vision. Even if they have nothing, they will be happy to possess nuclear weapons and the ability to destroy. For them, there is not even a question of Ukrainians, Poles, or anyone else. It's just that they haven't yet given the command on TV that some other country is an enemy of Russia.

Still, going back to the Russians’ offensive plans. Many confidently say that they may try to capture Kharkiv again...

They may. But they will fail. They can only act in a classic way. Two or three distracting directions and one main one. However, this story will be difficult for Kharkiv because there will be constant attempts to destroy critical and civilian infrastructure.

"To capture Kharkiv, they need to fight for years. Remember how long Bakhmut and Avdiivka were held. It's easier for the Russians to change the Russian leadership and abandon their plans than to take the city paying with thousands more of their soldiers."

Are drones the most pressing issue for all units of the Defense Forces?

For all of them. This is now a drone war. So far, the Russians have no parity with us. We have serious bombers, like Heavy Shot or Baba Yaga, which carry serious charges. We are leading in this area.

Indeed, they do have a lot of FPV drones, but we are also increasing the number. The National Guard has established its own efficient drone production. In addition, the brigades are working on their own level – they all have people who can repair, upgrade [CPUs], and produce ammunition.

In some areas, up to 70-80% of enemy armored vehicles are destroyed by drones. There are units of the National Guard that work exclusively with drones, so their results are millions of dollars worth of destroyed Russian equipment. But everything is decided by people.

We have a battalion tactical group that was created from certain units of operational brigades. It is performing well in one of the areas, successfully repelling all enemy attacks. Moreover, it is also taking back certain territories from the enemy.

This depends on the virtuosity of the commanders.

How acute is the issue of shell hunger in the NGU?

Compared to the Russians, it is always acute. I would not say that the situation is very critical now. Although it is still difficult.

Russians preparing unpleasant surprises, National Guard Commander Oleksandr Pivnenko warns
Oleksandr Pivnenko (Photo: Valentina Polishchuk/

But the front is not collapsing. In some areas, when commanders plan properly, there is progress. In others, people need support from the command: that they are not left to their own devices. They need to be visited and communicated with. They need to be rewarded when they prove themselves in battle. This is very important for them.

Let’s discuss the issue of corruption. There were a lot of high-profile scandals in the NGU before the full-scale invasion. Now they just don't come out?

It's not about whether they come out or not. We do not hide them. There may be some stories, but we are constantly working on it.

What does this mean?

I work with my logisticians. They work with the commanders of military units. There are state and legislative mechanisms that we have put in place for this. There are anti-corruption units that see and predict risks, and we neutralize them at the initial level.

What do these risks include?

Procurement is always a bad story. It's just easier not to buy than to buy. Because one way or another, there may be certain risks. We control everything as much as possible. Because I want to live in Ukraine. I will be ashamed of myself if there are any schemes under my command. If there were certain negative cases, they were transferred to the State Bureau of Investigation, and everything was processed.

I am a combat officer. Many of my friends and subordinates have been killed in this war. I don't want to get embroiled in dubious stories. That's why I warned everyone: God forbid someone gets into something – there is a law, and I will make personnel decisions. I'm not going to underestimate the level of the National Guard and cover up for anyone. I have no friends in this regard.

Military analysts say that the Russian summer offensive could be a big problem for the Defense Forces. What do you expect?

The Russian offensive was a significant problem in February 2022, when we were not ready for the enemy to penetrate deep into the country. But we quickly reorganized in many areas. We conducted a serious operation in Kharkiv, and the Russians left Kyiv and Kherson oblasts.

"Now they will not bring such problems that the commanders of the Defense Forces will run in panic and not know what to do. No, we are preparing. Indeed, the enemy will make unpleasant surprises for us. It will act in areas we do not expect. But it will not achieve his goal."

Russia will not be able to take either Zaporizhzhya or Kharkiv. Even if they try something in the direction of Kyiv, it will be a demonstration. Although I do expect some difficulties. There will be pressure – they will try to move forward wherever they can. We will move the contact lines and units, use reserves. We will practice with artillery and FPV drones. We will destroy them by all means.

To what extent do we have enough reserves?

To realize that the enemy will not win this year. I cannot say that everything will be bad for them. Perhaps they will have some achievements. Maybe they will be able to fulfill 10-15% of their goals.

But it will not be a strategic victory.

And after that, they will think about what to do next. Because, figuratively speaking, they also do not have enough ammunition for the second such "shot".

Russians preparing unpleasant surprises, National Guard Commander Oleksandr Pivnenko warns
Oleksandr Pivnenko (Photo: Valentina Polishchuk/

Without mobilization, there will be no rotation. Ways out

The armed forces are short of people. Does the National Guard also feel this?

We always reflect the armed forces, but in smaller proportions. There is a shortage of people because there is a full-scale war going on.

If there is no mobilization, there will be no rotation. Without it, people get exhausted. No unit can fight in defense for two or three years. Especially if it is in a sector that is interesting to the enemy.

"Commanders just get mentally tired. They need to be replaced. Let alone the fighters. So the main question is where to get people."

Full rotation will be possible when there is mobilization. Now we are doing it through internal displacement and recruitment. We have very good stories of recruitment in the offensive brigades.

When the Offensive Guard was just being formed, it was cited as an example of successful recruitment, even though it seemed that volunteers were running out. Is it possible to repeat this effect?

We are going to try. But it is the brigades themselves who are directly involved. We have plans to revive it. We are also working with job search platforms. The National Guard is one of the largest employers today, in more civilian terms.

Russians preparing unpleasant surprises, National Guard Commander Oleksandr Pivnenko warns
Oleksandr Pivnenko (Photo: Valentina Polishchuk/

People have to trust us. They need to know that if they come to the National Guard brigade, they will be trained, their character will be taken into account, and they will be assigned to a line of work where they will be of the greatest benefit. It makes no sense to just send them [to the front line] to cover a certain area, to send everyone there. It doesn't work that way.

From your words, it seems that the idea of recruiting appeals to you more.

Of course, it does. If there is trust, they will come to us.

Can recruitment replace mobilization?

Yes, but not now. This should happen in parallel. The system cannot be rebuilt quickly. I think in a few months we will see an increase in the number of people who want to join the army.

Unfortunately, the enemy is also constantly working with information special operations. This negativity has its effect, people are simply afraid to join the army. They think that tomorrow they will be thrown somewhere in the difficult Avdiivka sector without preparation and will die there.

"However, our FPV drones are causing many more problems for the Russians. Today, more people are killed at the front by unmanned systems. Counteracting them is the work of commanders, electronic warfare systems, and the organization of combat operations. We can do this too and know how to deal with it, but it takes time."

The country has to switch to a war footing. It is already doing so.

Do you mean that more people should be recruited into the army?

That everything needs to be completely changed. The whole system. Everyone should understand that it depends on them whether this country will survive or not. Everyone should have a field where they can help the military and defense.

The war will continue. In one way or another. Until we discourage the Russians from entering our territory, nothing will end. To fight them off, we need strength. We need training. We need people to understand that there is nothing wrong with mobilization – you will be trained, your skills will be assessed, and you will be given a field.

"Syrskyi is a systematic person." What the war changed at NGU

In an interview before your appointment, you said that you would change a lot of things in the National Guard if you had the opportunity. The opportunity came more than nine months ago. How did you start the changes?

The first thing that concerned me was the combat and special training of the units. We have quadrupled the number of exercises. We are creating new training centers and increasing their capacity. If they had been formed back in 2008-2009, it would have been easier. We would have been more prepared for war.

Although even back then, Russia's plans included Crimea and other territories. Now we would only have to organize the manning of the units and work on the supply of weapons, military equipment, FPV drones, electronic warfare equipment, and ammunition.

More than 10 countries are already helping to train the guardsmen, from individual to collective and special training. We are developing the NCO corps – the role of NCOs in NATO armies is quite important. This is the unit that works directly with soldiers.

In 2023, about 350 privates and NCOs were trained with the help of our partners.

Can you share the details of how you train them?

Through the military commissariats and recruitment, we recruit people and distribute them to training centers. There we provide basic training. It takes five weeks.

Russians preparing unpleasant surprises, National Guard Commander Oleksandr Pivnenko warns
Oleksandr Pivnenko (Photo: Valentina Polishchuk/

Then we send the personnel to the units where they undergo collective training and coordination. Or we train in special areas, if someone chooses for themselves whether they want to fly drones, or be a sniper or tanker.

We have more than 500 mobile and stationary firing groups working to strengthen the state's air defense. This is also a training area that has its own specifics, which did not exist until 2022. But now they shoot down Shahed [drones], cruise missiles, and warplanes.

Another extremely important area of work is mine-clearing. We have 50 demining teams involved in clearing agricultural land, settlements, power lines, and roads. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion alone, they have discovered and defused 38,000 explosive items: from anti-tank mines and unexploded ordnance to booby traps and even surveying trophy vehicles. Their training must certainly be thorough.

Did joining the Staff of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief change your perception of war?

More of an understanding of how the country works during the war has changed. I saw that a lot of work is being done.

The war itself was clear to me. Russia has a single goal – to destroy Ukraine. Our task is to hold on and train our personnel. No matter how many drones, technologies, and latest developments there are, if people are not trained, their survival rate on the battlefield decreases.

How do you communicate with President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy?

I report to the Minister of Internal Affairs (Ihor Klymenko – Ed.). There is a hierarchy line according to which we work.

Do you not communicate directly?

No, we don't.

What about the new Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Oleksandr Lytvynenko?

I interacted with him in some areas when he was the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service. Now it is no longer my story. There is a minister.

Do you communicate with the military and political leadership exclusively through the minister?

I am the commander of the National Guard, the units that perform tasks at the front and have law enforcement functions. Direct communication was carried out by officials within their authority.

Russians preparing unpleasant surprises, National Guard Commander Oleksandr Pivnenko warns
Oleksandr Pivnenko (Photo: Valentina Polishchuk/

There is the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He is very supportive of the National Guard. In particular, in the issue of social protection of people. For example, those released from Russian captivity. To date, 681 guardsmen have been released, and most remain in service. Up to 30 servicemen have resigned from the ranks of the National Guard, and we keep in touch with them and offer them employment. These are primarily positions in social security units and instructors at training centers.

How did the change of command in the Armed Forces affect the Defense Forces?

I know Commander-in-Chief [Oleksandr] Syrskyi personally, I performed tasks under his leadership in Kharkiv Oblast, in Bakhmut. He is a systematic person. But he is not afraid of the latest technologies and is ready to implement them in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. I see a serious restructuring of the Armed Forces and their approaches. They are creating reserves. They are auditing units, strengthening brigades that hold dangerous sectors.