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25 Nov, 2023 00:40

Zelensky flags new military conscription drive

Ukraine will announce new mobilization measures soon, the president has said
Zelensky flags new military conscription drive

Ukraine will announce a new “complex plan” of mobilization next week, President Vladimir Zelensky said on Friday after meeting with the General Staff. While he offered no details, other Kiev officials hinted at the possibility of demobilizing some soldiers that had been fighting since February 2022.

Ukraine has been under pressure to make up the losses incurred in the four-month “counteroffensive” on the southern front, which Russia has estimated at over 90,000 men.

“As for the issue of mobilization, you know how complex and very relevant it is,” the Ukrainian president said at a press conference on Friday. “Today there was a comprehensive report on what the challenges are, how to resolve the issue, what to do, what legislative changes, who must do this... A comprehensive plan on this issue will be available next week.”

Kiev first announced a mobilization and declared martial law in February 2022, when the conflict with Russia escalated. It has repeatedly widened the conscription net since, to the point where some German researchers warned this week it could jeopardize Ukraine’s economic recovery.

Aleksey Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told Ukrainian radio on Friday that at least some of the men mobilized early on in the conflict with Russia might be released from service “in the near future.”

“We all know that we now have a problem with mobilization, one might say, a failure of mobilization,” Roman Kostenko, secretary of the parliamentary committee on Defense, National Security and Intelligence, told Ukraine’s Radio NV on Friday. “After the military commissars were replaced, we experienced a failure in mobilization.”

Zelensky had purged all the regional conscription offices earlier this year, citing widespread corruption. By the end of August 2023, over 20,000 men eligible for the draft had fled Ukraine – and another 21,000 tried to flee but were caught, the BBC reported last week.

According to Kostenko, Kiev needs to find a solution quickly or it will face “big problems,” describing mobilization as a bigger challenge than the shortage of artillery ammunition.

The West has been pushing Zelensky to expand the conscription age to men aged 17-70 and mobilize more women, Russian intelligence said earlier this week. Kiev has neither confirmed nor denied these claims.

Former Deputy Defense Minister Anna Maliar – whom Zelensky sacked in September – told the outlet Liga on Thursday that Ukrainians “shouldn’t be afraid” of mobilization. Ukraine needs to realize some “unpleasant things,” she said, such as that the Russians “simply physically have more people” while Ukraine has a smaller army that “will not get larger” and fewer weapons.

“The time for popular solutions has already passed,” Maliar said. “As an adult society, we just need to understand these things and not expect that there should be good news every day.”