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12 Jan, 2024 15:28

Ukrainians freezing to death trying to escape Zelensky's draft – The Times

Dozens have died while trying to cross into Romania amid Kiev's conflict with Russia, the newspaper reported
Ukrainians freezing to death trying to escape Zelensky's draft – The Times

More than 20 Ukrainians have died while trying to escape the country since the start of the conflict with Russia, The Times newspaper reported on Thursday, citing a Ukrainian border guard.

The deaths were registered by a single guard unit, responsible for a 320km stretch of the border with Romania and Hungary. The unit is based in the western Ukrainian city of Mukachevo, which has become a popular destination for people trying to flee, given its proximity to four neighboring states – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.

Since the outbreak of the hostilities in February 2022, the Mukachevo border guard unit has found 19 bodies in the River Tisza – of people believed to have drowned during botched attempts to cross into Romania. A further five were found frozen to death in the woods.

More Ukrainians are expected to flee the country given the government’s plan to mobilize an additional 500,000 troops to bolster its military ranks, the newspaper noted.

A new mobilization bill was introduced in parliament late last year, seeking to lower the draft age from 27 to 25, and drop exemptions for some categories of disabled people, along with other measures. So far, parliament has failed to pass it into law, with the legislation presently shelved by MPs for amendments.

Over the past year alone, nearly 11,000 military-eligible men have been apprehended at the border while trying to leave the country, Ukrainian border guard spokesman Andrey Demchenko said in late December. The total number caught on the frontier since the start of the conflict has surpassed 17,000.

The number of men prosecuted for evading the draft, however, remains relatively low. Ukraine has more than 9,000 active criminal proceedings against such individuals, with some 2,600 having made it to court, Interior Minister Igor Klimenko revealed last week.

Deputy Defense Minister Natalya Kalmykova stated in October 2023 that “tens, hundreds of thousands of people” may have evaded military enlistment.