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11 Apr, 2024 14:20

Ukrainian MPs vote to force troops to keep fighting

Lawmakers in Kiev rejected a provision that would allow conscripts serving for three years to return home
Ukrainian MPs vote to force troops to keep fighting

The Ukrainian parliament has voted against demobilizing the country’s longest-serving conscripts, forcing them to stay on the front indefinitely. The vote came as lawmakers passed a broad mobilization bill imposing new restrictions on draft-dodgers, and potentially drafting the handicapped.

The legislature voted on Thursday to pass a long-awaited bill aimed at replenishing the country’s beleaguered armed forces. The bill was expected to include a passage allowing troops who have served for 36 months to be demobilized, but a last-minute amendment removed this passage, effectively compelling these troops to keep fighting past February 2025.

The amendment passed by 227 votes to 21, with 97 lawmakers abstaining, according to the Kiev Post.

It was first seen in a final version of the bill published on Wednesday, and its inclusion angered service members who had been expecting some reprieve from combat.

“This is a disaster... How could it be possible to promise demobilization to soldiers…only to abandon them at the end?” Ukrainian State Border Guard Service officer Maxim Nesmaynov wrote on Facebook. “You can’t take away hope from soldiers that they will return home. Someone is trying to destroy the country from inside!”

Ukraine has been in a state of martial law since the conflict with Russia broke out in February 2022. Under martial law, Ukrainian conscripts are required to serve until the end of hostilities, with few exceptions. 

General Aleksandr Syrsky, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, insisted to lawmakers that this requirement remain in place, the Kiev Post reported.

Thursday’s bill includes a raft of measures aimed at bolstering military recruitment. It requires all Ukrainian citizens living abroad to upload their personal information to a recruitment database, mandates that all citizens aged between 18 and 60 carry military registration documents, and bans military service evaders from driving. The bill also requires individuals previously deemed unfit for service due to disabilities to be re-evaluated for enlistment, and introduces a three-month period of mandatory military service for citizens under 24.

The bill will now be sent to the desk of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to be signed into law. Earlier this month, Zelensky – at the insistence of some of his Western backers – signed a controversial law lowering the military conscription age to 25 from 27.

Ukraine has lost more than 440,000 troops since February 2022, according to figures published last month by the Russian Defense Ministry. In an update last week, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu put the Ukrainian military’s losses since January at more than 80,000 men.