During a working trip to the Zhytomyr region, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took part in the events on the occasion of the Day of Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which is marked annually on July 29. The Head of State also introduced the newly appointed military commanders.
Congratulating the special forces soldiers on their professional holiday, the President noted that this year marks the fifth anniversary of the SOF.
"To give an objective assessment of these years and your significance for the Ukrainian army, I want to change and supplement one well-known statement: "Difficult times give birth to strong people. And extremely difficult times give birth to Special Operations Forces - extremely strong people". Created during the Russian aggression, under difficult conditions and in a short time, you - each of you - became the pride and elite of the Ukrainian army. You are the youngest, but at the same time the most modern kind of troops," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
The Head of State noted that the SOF Day is marked, not celebrated, because on this day in 2014 in the Donetsk region, in the village of Latyshevo, 10 special forces soldiers were killed in an ambush. In total, 80 heroes - SOF fighters - gave their lives for Ukraine.
Those present honored the memory of the victims with a moment of silence.
The President separately noted the heroism of the Special Operations Forces soldiers. According to him, during the war in Donbas, the SOF personnel performed about 10 thousand combat missions. In particular, in May 2014, the special forces were the first to start defending the Donetsk airport.
"For personal courage, heroism and loyalty to the military oath, more than 600 soldiers in gray berets were awarded state decorations, and seven special forces soldiers gained the high title of Hero of Ukraine," the President stressed.
He also reminded that at the end of 2019, four Ukrainian special forces soldiers were released from Russian captivity.
"Today, everyone understands that your advantage is not in quantity, your advantage is in quality. In a high level of knowledge and skills multiplied by patriotism, determination, the ability to adequately assess the situation and make important quick decisions," said Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In addition, according to the President, the Special Operations Forces were the first in the Armed Forces in 2020 to move to a typical structure of NATO army headquarters. Individual detachments of military units are fully integrated with the Alliance's special operations forces. And the 140th SOF Center has been certified as a SOF unit and has the right to be involved in NATO operations.
"This is the first unit of a non-NATO country in history to receive such a certificate," the President said.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy also congratulated on the appointment and introduced new Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Major General Valeriy Zaluzhny, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Major General Serhiy Shaptala and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Yevhen Moysiuk. Relevant decrees on the appointment were signed by the President the day before.
"You all know these people very well. You know, these are really powerful combat officers. Patriots of Ukraine who have great experience, courage and great authority among our military. I thank the previous leadership of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and I am confident that the newly appointed leadership will increase the combat experience gained, enhance the transition of the Ukrainian army to NATO standards and together with the Minister of Defense of Ukraine will create appropriate conditions for all our Ukrainian defenders," said Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
He expressed the belief that strong people would ensure peace for a free and independent Ukrainian state.
"SOF soldiers perform many difficult tasks in an invisible war. Many of them can be told only in years, decades. And although today the citizens of Ukraine do not know everything about them and do not see your faces, they see peaceful cities, see peace and tranquility in these cities. And they know that this is your merit as well. Glory to the special forces soldiers!” said the Head of State.