Ukraine Law to Boost Its Troops Raises Concerns

The legislation will make it easier to identify every conscript in the country amid new push by Russia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 18, 2024 9:30 AM CDT
Controversial Mobilization Law Kicks Off in Ukraine
Newly recruited soldiers are seen in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A divisive mobilization law in Ukraine came into force on Saturday, as Kyiv struggles to boost troop numbers after Russia launched a new offensive that some fear could close in on Ukraine's second-largest city. The legislation, which was watered down from its original draft, will make it easier to identify every conscript in the country, per the AP. It also provides incentives to soldiers, such as cash bonuses or money toward buying a house or car, that some analysts say Ukraine can't afford. Lawmakers dragged their feet for months and only passed the law in mid-April, a week after Ukraine lowered the age for men who can be drafted from 27 to 25.

The measures reflect the growing strain that more than two years of war with Russia has had on Ukraine's forces, who are trying to hold the front lines in fighting that has sapped the country's ranks and stores of weapons and ammunition. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also signed two other laws Friday, allowing prisoners to join the army and increasing fines for draft dodgers fivefold. More:

  • Concerns: Oleksii, 68, who runs a car repair shop in Kyiv, worries about his business, as he expects 70% of his workers will be mobilized. "We will have to shut down and stop paying taxes," he says, adding that it's very difficult to replace workers because of their specialized skills. Most of them are already in the armed forces, he notes, adding that the law is "unfair" and "unclear."
  • Volunteers: Rusyn is the head of recruitment for the 3rd Assault Brigade, one of the most popular among Ukrainian volunteers. He says he saw a 15% increase in men joining the brigade, which fights in eastern Ukraine, in the past months. Most recruits are between 23 and 25 years old, he says. For security reasons, he and his recruits asked to be identified by their call signs only.
  • Runaways: Many Ukrainians have fled the country to avoid the draft since Russia's all-out invasion in February 2022. The nation's Supreme Court last month said that 930 people were convicted of avoiding mobilization in 2023, a fivefold increase from the previous year. Around 768,000 Ukrainian men ages 18 to 64 had been granted temporary protection in European Union countries as of last November, per data from the bloc's statistical agency, Eurostat. Kyiv has barred men under 60 from leaving the country since the start of the war, but some are exempt, including those who are disabled or have three or more children. Unable to cross the border legally, some Ukrainian men risk death trying to swim across a river that separates Ukraine from neighboring Romania and Hungary.

More here.

(More Ukraine stories.)

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