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23 Dec, 2023 10:15

EU nation willing to hunt down Ukrainian draft dodgers

Estonia’s interior minister said the country’s authorities will have little trouble tracking potential conscripts for Kiev
EU nation willing to hunt down Ukrainian draft dodgers

Estonia is ready to extradite Ukrainians who are fit for military duty but are reluctant to leave the Baltic state to help their homeland fight Russia, Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets said on Friday.

The minister’s comments came as Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said earlier this month that the nation’s military had proposed mobilizing an additional 450,000-500,000 people, while several senior officials in Kiev signaled that all Ukrainian citizens should participate in the conflict in some capacity.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov recently said that Kiev would call on all Ukrainian men of military age – including those residing in Western countries – to report to the country’s recruitment centers, warning of unspecified sanctions for those who fail to comply.

Estonia, where more than 7,000 Ukrainian men of mobilization age have applied for temporary protection status, has signaled it is ready to help Kiev fill its manpower shortage.

“If Ukraine needs it, Estonia can handle finding this person and handing them over to Ukraine,” Laanemets said, as quoted by the state broadcaster ERR, noting that the country’s authorities have a pretty good understanding of where Ukrainians live and what they do.

The minister added that he had prepared a written proposal requesting that a corresponding extradition agreement between Tallinn and Kiev to be signed.

Estonia is not the first country to approach the issue of handing over draft dodgers to Ukraine. According to the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, Warsaw started extraditing Ukrainians of mobilization age in September, although only those who were involved in the illegal smuggling of migrants. At the time, the outlet said that to bring its men back home, Ukraine would have to issue an international arrest warrant in each specific case.

Meanwhile, Germany has been reluctant to help Ukraine in this regard, with officials in Berlin insisting that they won’t coerce people to do military service against their will.

Ukraine’s push to replenish the ranks of its military comes as its faltering counteroffensive, which has been underway since early June, has failed to gain any significant ground. Moscow has described Kiev’s losses as catastrophic, saying that it has sustained around 160,000 casualties over the past six months.