Ukraine will punish men who escaped during martial law – minister
Ukrainian authorities plan to prosecute men who fled abroad while the country has been under martial law, Interior Minister Igor Klimenko has told news outlet RBK Ukraina. They “will have to be brought to account over violating the law,” the official said, amid what he described as daily attempts to illegally escape Ukrainian territory during the ongoing conflict.
“After the war ends, the state will do everything to remind every citizen what they did during the war,” Klimenko said in the interview, published on Thursday. He believes there will be a relevant “law” particularly dealing with those who “illegally crossed the border” during this period. According to the minister, the legislation would be jointly initiated by government and lawmakers.
Klimenko went on to claim that “every citizen” wants such legislation to be passed and “would understand the state if some restrictions will be placed on these citizens’ free movement, at least abroad.” He did not elaborate what other sanctions those found in violation of such a law may face.
The minister also admitted that Ukrainian men are still seeking to flee the country, more than a year after the conflict began. “We detain such people every day,” Klimenko said. He also admitted that “there were way more border-violation cases” in the “first months” of the hostilities.
Kiev works with its “international partners” to equip Ukraine’s western borders with the technical means to prevent illegal border crossings, the minister said. The frontier is to be equipped with thermal imaging and CCTV cameras, he added. Ukrainian border guards also jointly patrol the nation’s frontiers, Klimenko explained, “together with our European partners.”
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky imposed martial law and banned Ukrainian males aged 18-60 from leaving the country soon after the conflict broke out in late February 2022. Since then, there have been several waves of mobilization, as Kiev sought to rebuild units decimated in the fighting.
According to media reports, people were bribing officials to dodge the draft and paying to be smuggled out of the country. Some Western media outlets, including The Economist, previously reported on what they called “aggressive” mobilization tactics used by the Kiev government.
In February 2023, Kiev maintained it still would not let male Ukrainians leave the country. Presidential aide Mikhail Podoliak told the German state outlet DW at that time that obligations to the state take precedence over human rights “in wartime.” He also admitted that men in Ukraine “want to run away.”