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10 Dec, 2023 16:37

Ukraine struggling to find fresh conscripts – WaPo

Kiev is reportedly beefing up border controls as dozens of desperate men are trying to illegally leave the country daily
Ukraine struggling to find fresh conscripts – WaPo

Ukraine is facing a dwindling pool of new conscripts as its military is “running out” of career soldiers, the Washington Post has reported. The newspaper noted that Kiev has considerably tightened controls on its Western borders as dozens of draft-age men try to leave the country illegally by the day. 

Earlier this week, Mikhail Podoliak, a top aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, acknowledged that further mobilization in Ukraine is bound to be complicated. The official expressed hope that by honing the “propaganda element,” the government would be able to improve the situation.

In its article on Friday, the Washington Post observed that, at this juncture, “even more than bullets, Ukraine needs fighters, leading to a search for new ways to mobilize the population and stronger measures against draft dodgers.” It quoted a 68th Brigade assault team leader, who uses the call sign Dolphin, as saying, “Honestly, we need more soldiers. The professional military personnel are running out.”

While “tens of thousands” of volunteers are still joining the military, many draft-eligible Ukrainians “are less than eager to fight for a military and national government that is viewed as rife with corruption and incompetence,” the WaPo claimed. 

The article described how draft dodgers are trying to sneak out of the country despite a ban placed by the government at the start of the conflict on men aged 18-60. Some are said to bribe officials to get a certificate of medical disability, while others attempt to forge documents on their own.

Other men trying to avoid the mobilization are attempting to cross the border via official checkpoints, hiding in secret compartments in vehicles, or even posing as clergy members and women.

Andrey Demchenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service, told the WaPo that there have been at least 825 cases where draft-age men have tried to bribe border guards since the start of the hostilities in February 2022. One anonymous draft dodger told reporters that the going rate on the Moldovan border is $300.

Still, others are hiring professional guides hoping to lead them through mountainous areas to Romanian soil. Some men are undertaking the risky trek in freezing temperatures on their own, the newspaper details, adding that some have drowned or frozen to death in the process.

Kiev’s push to recruit more manpower follows the underwhelming summer counteroffensive, which, according to the Russian Defense Ministry’s estimates, has cost Kiev over 125,000 troops.