The EU-funded PRAVO Police Programme delivered 1,085 special-purpose uniforms to the National Police of Ukraine this summer. They are intended to be worn by police officers engaged in ensuring order and safety at public events. Along with previously delivered practical training in the new public order concept, including both basic courses and training-of-trainers sessions, study visits to Sweden and Denmark to support first-hand experience and knowledge exchange, 40 specialised public order vehicles, and wearable personal protection items (balaclavas, helmets, gas masks, protection gloves, fire retardant underwear, riot body armour, boots) worth a total of €4,500,000, the Programme completed a package of activities implemented over several years, all aimed at providing police officers with the skills and means required for them to prevent and de-escalate conflict at mass gatherings, facilitating the exercise of citizens’ democratic rights while maintaining order, security, and safety.
This feeds into the overarching programme goal of helping Ukraine's police force be a modern and professional law-enforcement organisation using citizen-friendly approaches and enacting respect for human rights as its fundamental operating principle.
Ukraine’s law enforcement agencies have had to deal with a fundamentally transformed security environment following the Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. The National Police’s focus has shifted to immediate challenges, such as ensuring safety in previously occupied areas now under the control of the Ukrainian government. Still, as confirmed by the National Police’s management, public order and community policing reform remain key long-term priorities. Ukraine is committed to making further steps to bring its law enforcement practices in line with the best European standards.
The EU started supporting the National Police of Ukraine in changing its approach to public order policing in 2017 when the ‘Support to Police Reform in Ukraine’ (SPRU) project was launched. Implemented by the Swedish police and UNOPS with support from the EU Advisory Mission Ukraine, the initiative focused on introducing a new public order policing methodology to reduce the communication gap between law enforcement officers and the public, fostering dialogue and cooperation. The paradigm shift in public order policing in Ukraine was legally fixed with the introduction of the Public Order Concept by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in August 2018.
“The call for change in public order management approaches and the way Ukrainian law enforcement functions has been strong ever since the Revolution of Dignity,” said Xavier Camus, Head of the Good Governance and Rule of Law section at the EU Delegation to Ukraine. “In the context of the candidate country status to the EU granted to Ukraine, having professional and reliable law enforcement bodies will be of even greater importance, and so we are most willing to continue helping Ukraine in this respect.”
The European approach to public order is based on facilitation, de-escalation, and a graduated approach.
“Facilitation” represents the understanding that the role of the police and public authorities is to protect the legitimate right of the public to assemble freely.
“Graduated approach” means that the police should first project a calm and peaceful atmosphere by not wearing helmets or shields. The use of force is seen as a last resort, applied only when all other measures have been tried.
This concept relies heavily on the police entering dialogue and consultation with various political movements and societal groups to pre-empt public turmoil long before it erupts onto the streets. By means of dialogue, the police prevent violence and adhere to a strictly proportional use of force.
Dialogue Police officers in Ukraine are already putting this theory into practice. This is another manifestation of the graduated approach, ensuring that minor outbreaks of tension among demonstrators are addressed through communication rather than through force.
“How the police uphold public order has a direct impact on people’s trust and confidence in law enforcement. In light of Ukraine’s EU candidacy status and Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine, it is more important than ever to build upon the reforms so far achieved in the National Police of Ukraine,” said Fredrik Wesslau, acting Head of the EU Advisory Mission. “EUAM supports Ukraine’s new public order concept with strategic advice, training, and equipment that will help ensure that all citizens can exercise their right of assembly in a peaceful and orderly manner”.
When the SPRU project closed in 2019, PRAVO Police’s Public Order support package was developed to further strengthen the new approach to security and safety at public events and help it reach sustainability.
Speaking at the ceremony marking the delivery of vehicles and personal protection items, Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Denys Monastyrskyi remarked: “Each vehicle and set of armour donated thanks to the EU’s support represents saved lives. This is a very tangible, practical contribution by the European Union to Ukraine’s safety.”
Ihor Klymenko, Head of the National Police, added: “For the NPU, these items are primarily about safety: the safety of our citizens and the safety of our police officers. The tasks they perform are associated with serious risks, so proper equipment is key to their success.”
PRAVO Police is proud to have been able to assist the National Police of Ukraine in reforming its public order policing practices, and the programme hopes the positive momentum achieved in recent years will be retained, despite the challenges.