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16 Dec, 2023 20:56

Conscription in Ukraine becoming 'more aggressive' – NYT

Recruiters are “shoving people into cars” and pressing them into service against their will, the American newspaper reported
Conscription in Ukraine becoming 'more aggressive' – NYT

Ukrainian military recruiters have taken to “snatching” men off the streets and forcing them to fight, the New York Times reported on Friday. With casualty rates soaring, recruiters have allegedly turned to the injured and disabled to fill the ranks. 

“Recruiters have confiscated passports, taken people from their jobs and, in at least one case, tried to send a mentally disabled person to military training,” the NYT reported, citing interviews with Ukrainian lawyers, activists, and draftees.

Among those forced into service were a man with a broken arm, a man whose lawyer said he had “an official diagnosis of ‘mental disability’ from childhood,” and ordinary workers cornered as they left their jobs and were forcibly driven to recruitment centers. 

The man with the broken arm managed to escape from the recruitment center, he told the newspaper, but others unable to flee are faced with a stark choice: pay a bribe to be deemed unfit for service or get sent to the front line. One recruit who fought last year in Artyomovsk (called Bakhmut in Ukraine) called the bribe “a buyout from death.” 

“Videos of soldiers shoving people into cars and holding men against their will in recruiting centers are surfacing with increasing frequency on social media and in local news reports,” the Times noted.

Such videos have been circulating on Russian and Ukrainian Telegram channels since mid-2022, and Ukrainian military sources told RT that men of conscription age were being snatched from streets and shopping malls less than four months into the conflict. 

However, the New York Times’ reporting on the issue comes amid a shift in the Western media’s coverage of the conflict. Western outlets now portray President Vladimir Zelensky as “delusional” for believing that he can succeed on the battlefield, paint Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive as an ill-advised failure, and speculate on whether the Ukrainian military will “unravel” in the coming months. 

Although the Ukrainian military does not publish casualty figures, US officials believe that Kiev has lost more than 150,000 men in almost two years of fighting. Aleksey Arestovich, a former aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, puts the figure at up to 300,000, while the Russian Defense Ministry counts 125,000 Ukrainian casualties between early June and mid-November alone.

Such stark losses, combined with the fact that “many Ukrainian men have either fled or bribed their way out of the draft,” have forced recruiters to resort to these “aggressive conscription tactics,” the Times stated. However, the quality of recruits being sent to the front line has diminished as a result, according to accounts from active servicemen.

“We need people, but trained people, not the green ones we have there now,” a Ukrainian soldier told the BBC earlier this month. “There are guys who had spent just three weeks in training, and only managed to shoot a few times.”

“Everyone who wanted to volunteer for war came a long time ago,” the soldier continued. “Now we're getting those who didn't manage to escape the draft. You'll laugh at this, but some of our marines can't even swim."