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4 Jan, 2024 16:23

Ukraine reveals number of prosecuted draft dodgers

Over 9,000 criminal cases have been launched, with some 2,600 having already made it to court, the country's interior minister says
Ukraine reveals number of prosecuted draft dodgers

Ukraine has more than 9,000 active criminal proceedings being brought against alleged draft dodgers, Interior Minister Igor Klimenko revealed on Thursday. Some 2,600 of them have already made it to court, he added.

Klimenko made the revelation during an interview with the My-Ukraina TV channel, stating that all the affected draft-dodging accused have been prosecuted under the same article of the criminal code. Anyone convicted of evading their obligation risks landing behind bars for up to five years, according to Ukrainian law.

“To date, there are about 9,000 criminal proceedings. Some 2,600 such cases have been sent to courts,” Klimenko stated.

The number of criminal cases alleging evasion of Ukraine’s draft appears to be relatively small given the scale the practice has reached amid the conflict with Russia. Over the past year alone, nearly 11,000 men were caught at a border while trying to escape the country, spokesman for the Ukrainian border guard Andrey Demchenko said last week. Some 7,700 people were apprehended while attempting to cross the border on foot through the wilderness, and another 3,000 were caught at checkpoints with forged papers, according to the official.

It’s widely feared that the scale of draft dodging is actually even broader, with “tens, hundreds of thousands of people” evading military conscription, Deputy Defense Minister Natalya Kalmykova said last October. “Unfortunately, we see a lot of situations… when people don’t want and plan to avoid mobilization somehow, the need to defend their country,” she said at the time.

Ukraine has maintained its military recruitment drive since the early days of the conflict, gradually relaxing health requirements for would-be soldiers. The conscription campaign has grown increasingly violent and lawless over time, with numerous videos circulating online showing enlistment officers chasing potential recruits in the streets, some forcibly detaining and beating them up.

While Ukrainian authorities have never officially disclosed the country’s casualties in the conflict with Russia, that tally is believed to be in the hundreds of thousands already. According to the latest estimates by Moscow, Kiev has lost nearly 400,000 troops since the beginning of the recent hostilities, with the much-hyped yet botched counteroffensive alone costing it some 159,000 soldiers.

The heavy casualties are indirectly confirmed by ever-broadening mobilization plans, with President Vladimir Zelensky recently accounting for the need to call up an additional 500,000 troops. Kiev has also been deliberating lowering the draft age for men, as well as calling up more women.