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16 Apr, 2024 18:53

Zelensky signs draconian mobilization bill

The new legislation further simplifies mobilization procedures and introduces new penalties for draft dodgers
Zelensky signs draconian mobilization bill

President Vladimir Zelensky signed a controversial military mobilization bill into law on Tuesday, a legislation card on the Ukrainian parliament’s website indicates.

The new legislation was passed by the Verkhovna Rada earlier this month, following a drawn-out debate over its contents. In a last-minute turn of events, its provisions became even stricter than originally proposed, with a demobilization clause withdrawn.

The adopted legislation effectively means that all draftees are set to remain in the military indefinitely, a decision reportedly lobbied for by the recently appointed commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Aleksandr Syrsky. A demobilization procedure is expected to be introduced in separate legislation, though it remains unclear when exactly such a bill could materialize.

The new law further simplifies draft procedures, with all Ukrainians obliged to “update data” on themselves with the military authorities within 60 days after the legislation comes into force. The provision applies to Ukrainians living abroad as well.

Apart from that, all eligible individuals aged 18 to 60 now must always carry their military ID on them. Moreover, a conscription notice is forthwith considered to be delivered to a draftee even should conscription officers fail to meet them in person at their residence and actually hand them their notice.

The legislation also introduces new penalties for breaches, including fines and suspension of a driver’s permit. The police can also forcibly deliver a suspected draft dodger to an enlistment office should a draftee fail to show up on being deemed to have received their conscription notice.

Critics of the legislation have argued that it will further distance the Ukrainian authorities from the general public. It has also reportedly received a poor reception within the military itself, given the lack of any demobilization mechanisms. The reception was apparently also influenced by the fact that the bill’s introduction was justified largely by the purported need to relieve war-weary soldiers from their military service.

Kiev has maintained a mobilization drive since the early days of the conflict with Russia, which broke out in late February 2022. The mobilization effort grew increasingly chaotic and lawless over time, with numerous videos circulating online showing Ukrainian enlistment officers chasing potential soldiers in the streets, violently detaining them and beating them up. Senior Ukrainian officials, however, have routinely dismissed concerns over mounting violations as Russian propaganda.