LVIV, Ukraine, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Ukraine's military draft will end with this week's round of autumn call-ups as the country moves to an all-volunteer force, President Viktor Yanukovych said.
Yanukovych made the announcement Tuesday at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in the Lviv region as he revealed military reforms aimed at the creation of a "professional army."
"Today is the first day of the last military conscription," he said. "I think this year will be the last one. 2014 is the beginning of the development of modern Ukrainian army on a contractual basis."
Sixty percent of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are contract soldiers and their number will increase, he said, adding that some time will be necessary to prepare for the switchover.
"The usual conscript soldier cannot be qualitatively prepared in such a short period of time. We must understand that our soldiers deal with modern armament and electronics," Yanukovych said.
Because of that, professional armies comprised of volunteers is what is needed nowadays, he said.
"We have to and we will do that," he declared.
The country's main task, the president said, "is to raise the level of our army, our armed forces. This reform is aimed at the establishment of professional army that will be able to meet modern challenges."
These new soldiers must "come to grips with the modern equipment which is being modernized every year and demands constant training," he added, saying the reforms are necessary as a part of Kiev's strategy for European integration.
Deputy Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant-General Bronislaw Zhukovsky said in a defense ministry statement last week the October-November call-up will number 10,800 young men, including 5,000 for the armed forces, 4,800 for the Ministry of the Interior and 1,000 for the State Special Transport Service, the UNIAN news agency reported.
Zhukovsky indicated 8,000 contract soldiers had signed up so far this year, with the number of troops under contract increasing by 5,000.
Ukraine's army is the fifth-largest in Europe. By 2017, it is set to drop from 180,000 to 122,000 members.
Under current law on compulsory military service, all male citizens ages 18-25 must serve in the Army for 12 months or the Navy for 18 months.
Asked about the needs of the Ukrainian military within a possible alliance with NATO, Yanukovych told Interfax-Ukraine training must be the paramount daily mission of military personnel and promised funding for the training of the armed forces will increase every year.
The possibility of converting to an all-volunteer force has been discussed in Ukraine for many years, beginning in the mid-1990s, The Voice of Russia reported.
Former President Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's second president, who served from 1994-2005, had called for the military to be fully contractual, while Viktor Yushchenko, who succeeded him after the Orange Revolution, included a transition to a contract army in his campaign promises, but failed to accomplish it.
Yanukovych thus became the third Ukrainian president to call for the move, and the first to deliver it.