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7 Feb, 2024 14:07

Ukraine mobilization bill moves forward

The proposed legislation enhances Kiev’s draft-program rules and may come into force within weeks
Ukraine mobilization bill moves forward

Ukrainian MPs on Wednesday approved on first reading a bill that seeks to radically change military mobilization procedures in the country amid its ongoing hostilities with Russia. Kiev is experiencing an acute shortage of manpower due to frontline losses, draft-dodging and citizens fleeing abroad.

The proposed reform was initially submitted by the government in late December but MPs rejected the draft. It produced a new bill a month later, which attracted 243 votes in favor at this week’s session, comfortably exceeding the required 226-vote threshold.

MP Yaroslav Zheleznyak, who opposed the legislation, said the parliament had two weeks to consider possible amendments. The bill will likely be signed into law by President Vladimir Zelensky sometime in early March, the MP predicted, and come into force in April. 

The bill is aimed at boosting mobilization numbers through a number of coercive measures. It would require able-bodied men to register for possible service at a special website and provides for serious penalties for anyone failing to respond to an electronic summons. Draft dodgers would face denial of government services, asset freezes and other restrictions.

Ukrainian human-rights ombudsman Dmitry Lubinets said on Tuesday that some provisions in the draft law may be unconstitutional. His office had sent a nine-page memo to the parliament’s National Security, Defense and Intelligence Committee detailing his concerns, he said on social media. MP Zheleznyak said the committee’s input was not reflected in the wording of the bill approved by his fellow MPs on Wednesday.

In his message Lubinets specified that he had reservations about giving the military the authority to restrict the right of Ukrainian citizens to leave the country and the mandated registration in the proposed e-draft service.

Kiev is reportedly seeking to mobilize as many as 500,000 people. Last December, presidential aide Mikhail Podoliak openly urged friendly Western nations to nudge Ukrainian men living abroad to return to their homeland through various measures, like denying them social benefits and residency permits.

Last year the Ukrainian military made an attempt to capture territory from Russia using Western-provided heavy weapons, but failed to score any significant successes. The Russian Ministry of Defense has estimated Ukrainian losses in January alone at more than 23,000 soldiers, and at more than 383,000 killed or wounded since the hostilities started in February 2022.

EU officials have estimated the number of Ukrainian nationals potentially eligible for military service and resident in member states at around 650,000. Kiev’s border-guard service last November put the number of people who have crossed the country’s western border illegally at some 20,000.