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17 Dec, 2023 21:32

Forced conscripts ‘not effective’ – Ukraine’s top spy

Coercing citizens into fighting has failed and they must be motivated properly, Kirill Budanov says
Forced conscripts ‘not effective’ – Ukraine’s top spy

Forcibly conscripted Ukrainians are performing poorly on the battlefield, Kiev’s military intelligence chief, Kirill Budanov, has admitted. He warned, however, that the country’s harsh recruitment drive must continue, and that no one will be able to “escape mobilization.” 

The spymaster made the remarks during a panel discussion titled ‘2024: Challenges and Prospects’, excerpts from which were circulated by local media on Sunday. Budanov backed the idea of continuing forced conscription into the country’s military, claiming it was the only way to maintain numbers.

“It is impossible to escape mobilization,” he stated. “There are currently 1.1 million people in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. No recruiting can cover such volumes.”

“We don’t have that many people willing to do anything, actually. I’m not even talking about fighting,” Budanov added, admitting that most Ukrainians prefer to support the country’s troops away from the front lines.

The majority of our people, despite everyone shouting: ‘I am Ukrainian,’ ‘Ukraine above all,’ have not realized themselves as citizens of Ukraine.

The country has long run out of volunteers who are keen to fight Russian forces, with “everyone willing” having enlisted during the first six months of the conflict, Budanov said. Those who end up in the country’s military ranks must be properly motivated, the spy chief stressed.

“Who is being called up now?” he asked. “Unfortunately, there is no good answer here. If you don’t find motivation for these people, then regardless how many people are forced into or enlisted according to the law, their efficiency will be almost zero, which is basically what’s been happening lately.” 

Ukraine launched a general mobilization shortly after the start of the conflict with Russia in February 2022, barring most men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country. The conscription drive has been riddled with difficulties, in particular rampant corruption and draft dodging.

Simultaneously, Ukrainian recruitment officers have been accused of becoming increasingly violent and lawless in their efforts to catch more would-be soldiers. Numerous videos circulating online have shown officers chasing potential recruits in the streets, raiding public venues, and even beating up their victims.

Ukrainian authorities have admitted difficulties with bolstering the military’s ranks. Mikhail Podoliak, a top aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, conceded earlier this month that further mobilization would be complicated, suggesting that the government needs to crank up its “propaganda element” to attract new recruits.