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12 Apr, 2024 13:16

New conscription wave could cause ‘panic’ in Ukraine – WaPo

The country’s parliament recently passed a bill to significantly simplify mobilization procedures
New conscription wave could cause ‘panic’ in Ukraine – WaPo

Ukrainian leaders are unlikely to publicly acknowledge the scale of a new mobilization campaign, fearing it would send shockwaves across the country and demoralize the population, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The Ukrainian parliament passed a long-awaited mobilization bill this week, which is awaiting signature by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. It significantly simplifies procedures for the draft and forces all men aged 18 to 60 – including those residing abroad – to register with the military authorities.

In a last-minute move, the bill was stripped of a clause envisaging the demobilization of men who had served for three years, meaning that many troops would have to remain in the army until the conflict is over. Aleksandr Syrsky, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, reportedly lobbied for the change.

Kiev officials have signaled that they need around 500,000 troops to reinforce the frontline, although they later said that this number had been reduced.

The Washington Post noted that neither Syrsky nor Zelensky had revealed the revised figure amid what it called an “unpopular” mobilization. “Announcing that hundreds of thousands of men could be drafted risks stoking panic,” the paper argued.

Zelensky has been under public pressure to demobilize many soldiers who have been exhausted by months of fighting Russia. However, the Post suggested that “it’s unclear how Ukraine could afford to demobilize” a lot of people at once, given that its ranks have been severely depleted.

The Ukrainian president has said that while lawmakers may debate transferring troops to the reserve, “there is no demobilization during the war in the ordinary legislation,” explaining that service members can only be rotated or granted leaves of absence.

Earlier this month, after several weeks of deliberation, Zelensky signed a law lowering the age of conscription for men from 27 to 25.

A poll conducted by Info Sapiens research agency in early April found that only 20% of Ukrainian men aged 25 to 59, who are not members of the military, are considering joining the army, while 63% do not contemplate such a move.

Ukraine’s push to replenish battlefield losses comes as Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has estimated Kiev’s casualties at more than 80,000 troops since the start of 2024. In late February, he said that the opposing forces had suffered more than 444,000 losses since the conflict began in February 2022.