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In Ukraine, a debate on mobilization rages after two years of war

Anatolii Stepanov Agence France-Presse The patriotic momentum of the first months, when Ukrainians voluntarily went en masse to the front, is no longer there. More and more often, the media mention men who are recalcitrant to mobilization.

Ania Tsoukanova – Agence France-Presse and Andrii Kalchenko – Agence France-Presse respectively in Warsaw and kyiv

January 5, 2024

  • Europe

Sanction those who resist ? Draw to select new soldiers ? Paid exemptions ? A debate on mobilization rages in Ukraine, with the army having to fill its ranks after almost two years war with Russia.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in December that the army, which has suffered heavy losses and is struggling to find volunteers, had offered to mobilize an additional “450,000 to 500,000 people” to deal with the some 600,000 Russian soldiers deployed in Ukraine.

But he added that he needed to hear “more arguments” to decide, as the subject is sensitive in a country exhausted by war, particularly after the failure of the major counter-offensive in the summer of 2023.

Ukrainian forces number approximately 850,000 men. Although they do not reveal the number of soldiers sent to the front or their losses, every Ukrainian has seen the military sectors of their country's cemeteries grow.

The latest American estimates published in August by the New York Times suggested nearly 70,000 dead and up to 120,000 injured.

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Lower the age

The patriotic momentum of the first months, when Ukrainians voluntarily went en masse to the front, is no longer there. More and more often, the media mention men who are recalcitrant to mobilization.

In this context, the government submitted a bill to Parliament at the end of December which plans to lower the age of mobilization from 27 to 25, simplifies enlistment procedures and introduces new sanctions for those who resist, such as restrictions on driving licenses and the ban on real estate transactions.

The text, however, restricts service in time of war to 36 months, whereas it is currently unlimited.

But for the Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Loubinets, sanctioning more and more poses a problem.

“We cannot get to the stage where, by fighting Russia, we will turn into something similar to Russia where the laws no longer work and the Constitution is just a piece of paper,” he said on television.

Faced with criticism, several parliamentary officials and the presidency assured that this text would be debated and amended.

A parliamentary committee responsible for defense began examining the project behind closed doors on Thursday.

The Ukrainians interviewed by AFP in the streets of kyiv were divided on this tightening of the rules contained in the bill.

“I am against such harsh sanctions,” Olena, 42, told AFP, while Lioudmyla, 50, whose husband and son-in-law serve in the armed forces, is of the opposite opinion. “Why should some fight and others not? If it’s a matter of national security, all citizens should participate.”

“You have to be tough. We don’t really have a choice,” adds Anton, 17, who plans to enlist at 18 despite his parents’ opposition.

Money or chance ?

On social networks, we are increasingly calling for the children of the elite to be mobilized and we are denouncing certain proposals from political leaders.

A parliamentarian from the presidential party, Mariana Bezougla, put forward the idea of ​​an exemption from mobilization in exchange for a large donation made to the budget.

“And those who have no money, let them die in the trenches and let their children become orphans ?” protested a user on the MP’s Facebook page. “War is for the poor,” added another.

A former Minister of the Economy, Tymofiï Mylovanov, for his part recalled that the United States had resorted to drawing lots during the Vietnam War: “The State chooses one day at random and a month. People born on these days are mobilized.”

“A madhouse,” retorted well-known lawyer Laryssa Denysenko, denouncing two “absolutely harmful” proposals.

At the same time, voices are being raised to demand a demobilization of those who have been at the front for a long time. Others want measures to push Ukrainians abroad to return to fight.

“There can be no justice in this reality of carnage,” said writer Artem Tchekh, who joined the army as a volunteer.

But “if plumbers and office workers do not join the army, the enemy army will come to these same plumbers and office workers,” he warned on Facebook.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116