In fact, the latest incident at an ammunition depot in Chernihiv region, as well as all previous ones, is of the same nature and origin. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, abundant volumes of ammo (up to two million tonnes) have piled up at various sites across Ukraine. Before the war with Russia, one of the key issues that the authorities and security agencies had to address was its disposal. However, the process was ineffective. Ammunition depots were heavily underfunded. No system has been created to address the problem purposefully. In 2014, another major problem added up – the war.
If we talk about the versions specifically regarding the latest case, I would not exclude sabotage on the part of Russia, the aggressor state. At least, that is what's coming to mind first of all, since the depot is located near the Russia border. After all, Russian intelligence services are constantly working in this direction, and creating such a mess definitely corresponds to their interests. That's including, from the standpoint of the pre-election destabilization efforts, aimed at escalating the internal tensions in Ukraine, and so on.
Such cases indicate that today, the system is not sufficiently effective
However, had it been the first such incident, the government could claim that the system was simply not ready for such emergencies. However, I believe, by now the system is supposed to have been ready for sure... Therefore, such cases indicate that today, the system is not sufficiently effective. Although recently, both the Ministry of Defense and the Government have taken concrete steps to start creating an effective system for storing ammunition where technical equipment of the security system, the actual storage, and the modern system of countering the enemy's unmanned aerial vehicles would be in line with the best practices of NATO Allies.
Of course, it would be great if the pace of setting up such system were quicker. At the same time, this can not be done overnight or in the course of a month, because, I repeat, the problem has been accumulating since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Ukraine does have huge volumes of ammunition stored across the country. Accordingly, I believe it's impossible to calculate how much time is needed to create a truly efficient system. It all depends on the effectiveness of managerial decisions, plus, budget investments. Only such combination would yield real results. If, for example, there is money, but there is no system of decision making and their prompt realization, there will be no result whatsoever.
Creating an appropriate system for the secure storage of ammunition is one such specific task to tackle
Moreover, it is important to see specific solutions not only in the very technology, but also in management technologies. For example, that's about ensuring full protection of depots. They must be protected including from violations of storage rules (since 1991, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of ammo has been stored in conditions that did not meet the required standards).
In principle, this is not some ephemeral task. Creating an appropriate system the secure storage of ammunition is one such specific task to tackle.
To this end, firstly, we need huge investments. And, secondly, we should see a more effective aid from our NATO partners, assistance from the process management perspective, and preparation of the infrastructure for creating such a secure and effective system.
Mykhailo Samus is a deputy chief on international issues at the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies