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17 Mar, 2024 02:09

Zelensky’s draft leaving Ukrainian villages without men – WaPo

Military recruiters are “grabbing anyone they can,” locals told the outlet
Zelensky’s draft leaving Ukrainian villages without men – WaPo

Some Ukrainian villages and small towns have lost most of their adult males due to the aggressive mobilization tactics of army recruiters, as they struggle to refill the ranks of depleted forces, according to a report by the Washington Post.

In an article published on Saturday, the outlet detailed the plight of the village of Makov, in the Khmelnitsky region of Western Ukraine, where virtually every man of fighting age has been killed, wounded, or gone missing, with the remaining few being hunted down by draft officers.

“It’s just a fact, most of them are gone,” Larisa Bodna, deputy director of the local school, which keeps a database of students whose parents are deployed, told the outlet.

“People are being caught like dogs on the street,” noted another resident, whose husband was forcefully drafted last year, despite a medical condition that was meant to exempt him from military service. “The whole village was taken this way,” her mother-in-law added. 

The newspaper noted that a sense of resentment is steadily growing among the civilian population, with the majority feeling that their men have been targeted disproportionately, compared to larger cities, where it is easier to go into hiding. Residents say that even those already serving in the army, and young people below the draft age, are being stopped and questioned on the streets. Multiple videos of troops forcing men into vehicles have surfaced online in recent months, sparking rumors of kidnappings, contributing to panic among locals.

Ukraine announced a general mobilization shortly after the start of the conflict with Russia in February 2022, but thousands of men have since managed to flee. Following the failed counteroffensive in the summer of last year, Kiev was desperate to replenish its ranks, seeking to mobilize up to 500,000 new recruits.

In late January, Ukrainian lawmakers passed the first reading of a revised mobilization bill aimed at increasing the military ranks by lowering the conscription age from 27 to 25 and tightening draft conditions.

The Russian military estimated Kiev’s casualties at over 444,000 – killed or severely injured – as of the end of February. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed last month that only 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in two years of hostilities with Russia, a figure that even journalists sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause have called implausibly low.

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