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7 Nov, 2023 17:54

Ukraine increasingly conscripting older men – media

The average age of a soldier has reportedly risen to around 43 since the conflict with Russia began
Ukraine increasingly conscripting older men – media

Ukraine’s military has been forced to conscript more older men to fill its battalions amid the heavy losses suffered in its conflict with Russia, reportedly increasing the average age of its troops by nearly ten years since shortly after the crisis began last year.

The average age of a Ukrainian soldier has risen to around 43, Time magazine reported in a cover story posted last week. That compares with an average of 30-35 in March 2022, when thousands of men were rushing to enlist voluntarily, according to the Financial Times. The heavy toll of dead and wounded “has eroded the ranks of Ukraine’s armed forces so badly that draft offices have been forced to call up ever-older personnel,” Time said.

An unidentified aide to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky told the magazine that the shift in age has changed the makeup of Kiev’s forces. “They’re grown men now, and they aren’t that healthy to begin with. This is Ukraine, not Scandinavia.” The article detailed Zelensky’s struggles with alleged betrayals by Western allies, as well as corruption and discord within his own government as the conflict with Moscow drags on.

Ukraine hasn’t publicly reported its casualty figures, but as of August, US officials pegged the number of killed and wounded on both sides at nearly 500,000. The Russian Defense Ministry estimated last month that Kiev had lost more than 90,000 troops just since June, when a foundering Ukrainian counteroffensive began.

Zelensky’s regime forbade adult males under the age of 60 from leaving the country when the conflict began. Ukrainian authorities have reportedly filed more than 8,200 criminal cases against alleged draft dodgers, according to a local media report posted on Monday. Zelensky fired the directors of Ukraine’s enlistment offices in August, after a government investigation found that officials were selling fake medical exemptions to reluctant recruits for up to $6,000 each.

Aleksey Arestovich, a former senior adviser to Zelensky, said last month that Ukraine should conscript younger recruits because they are better-suited to endure the rigors of the battlefield and are easier to manipulate into an aggressive fighting force. “What is needed are wolves, who are 25 to 28, who want to fight and enjoy that, who still have things to prove,” he said.

Ukraine’s manpower struggles are worsening at a time when US public support for continuing to send massive military aid to Kiev is waning. However, a Zelensky aide told Time that even if Washington were to send all the weapons to Ukraine that have been promised, the country’s military simply doesn’t “have the men to use them.”