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22 Dec, 2023 15:37

Foreign nations should kick out Ukrainian draft dodgers – Zelensky aide

Men who fled abroad should have their residence permits revoked if they evade service at home, Mikhail Podoliak has said
Foreign nations should kick out Ukrainian draft dodgers – Zelensky aide

Ukrainian men of fighting age who fled the country amid the conflict with Russia should be forced to return, Mikhail Podoliak, a senior aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, has said. A set of restrictions that would limit their access to aid and services in their places of stay is required to achieve this goal, he told Ukraine’s Channel 24 in an interview published on Friday.

Podoliak’s words support comments made by Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, who told Germany’s Bild tabloid earlier in December that all Ukrainian men of military age living abroad were to be summoned to recruitment centers. The minister also warned that those who fail to comply could face sanctions.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry then clarified his statements by saying that a mobilization mechanism for Ukrainians living abroad was “not on the agenda.” In his interview on Friday, Podoliak said that Umerov had “a right idea.” 

According to the Zelensky aide, no one should be allowed to just “sit out” the conflict and shed responsibility for their nation. “They should be equal,” Podoliak said, referring to Ukrainians living abroad and those who stayed and are now being mobilized.

“Those should be the consultations with the governments of foreign nations where our men are residing,” he said, adding that the talks should be focused on “whether they [the Ukrainians] can further get temporary residence permit, have certain preferential treatment, get aid” there.

Podoliak also said that Umerov was “probably” already considering a set of measures that would “give our guys abroad an opportunity to make a choice: either to get drafted or… lose certain opportunities granted to people that temporarily left Ukraine.” 

His words came amid reports that Ukraine is struggling to refill the ranks of its army and is taking additional measures to enhance border controls amid daily attempts by men desperate to illegally flee the country.

In December, Zelensky said that the nation’s military had proposed calling up an additional 450,000-500,000 people, and that the government wanted to allocate an additional 500 billion hryvnia ($13.3 billion) to the effort.

Earlier this week, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu estimated that Ukraine had lost over 383,000 soldiers since the start of the conflict, adding that roughly half of the casualties were sustained during its much-hyped summer counteroffensive.

Some of Ukraine’s Western backers have already expressed their opposition to plans to force Ukrainian refugees to go back and fight. “It will not be the case that we are now forcing people to get drafted or [join] the military service against their will,” German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann told journalists on Friday.

The minister said that the German constitution forbids forcing any German national to serve in the military with arms in their hands and he “cannot imagine” Berlin “forcing people from other countries to do so.”

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