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12 Jan, 2024 16:38

Corruption suspected as draft avoidance surges in Ukraine

A large number of prospective conscripts are dodging military service on medical grounds, new data shows
Corruption suspected as draft avoidance surges in Ukraine

Ukrainian anti-corruption officials have reported an increase in the number of potential recruits deemed ineligible for military service by conscription offices since the outbreak of conflict in early 2022.

They suspect that people are paying off medical workers to avoid the draft, rather than actually being unfit for military service.

The statistics were highlighted by the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) on Thursday, based on data from recruitment centers throughout Ukraine.

Draft officials have been involved in some high-profile corruption scandals, prompting President Vladimir Zelensky to order all regional heads to be sacked last year. This move, according to the Ukrainian military, undermined the country’s mobilization efforts.

The agency’s data shows that the percentage of draftees rejected by draft commissions surged from 3% in 2021 to 8% in 2022, and 7% in the first nine months of 2023. The ‘partially eligible’ category grew from 20% in 2021 and 2022 to 27% last year.

Under the current law, ‘partially eligible’ draftees should not be given physically challenging jobs, precluding them from riskier roles and limiting their usefulness to the country’s military. A controversial draft law on mobilization, which was submitted to the Ukrainian parliament last month, seeks to abolish the category altogether.

The newly released statistics also indicate discrepancies in the invalidation rates among different parts of Ukraine. Kiev and Poltava Region reported “significantly” higher proportions of rejected candidates compared to the national average, the NACP noted. Last year, there was a double-digit difference in the percentages recorded in these regions versus the average.

“This data may indicate the presence of corruption risks” in the operation of recruitment centers, the agency warned.

Last week, Ukrainian Interior Minister Igor Klimenko revealed that more than 9,000 active criminal proceedings had been initiated against alleged draft dodgers. Over the past year alone, nearly 11,000 men have been caught at a border while trying to escape Ukraine, the country’s border guard spokesman Andrey Demchenko said earlier.

Kiev is struggling to replenish the troops it lost in 2023 in an attempt to retake land from Russian forces. The new mobilization law, if passed, would enable the military to tap into manpower reserves that are currently less readily available, such as people with medical conditions, women, and citizens who fled abroad as refugees.

According to the latest estimates by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Kiev’s losses last year exceeded 215,000 troops and 28,000 units of heavy weaponry.