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28 Apr, 2024 21:54

Soldier claims ‘nobody willing’ to join Ukrainian army – media

Kiev has no spare troops to relieve those already engaged, an Azov regiment serviceman has reportedly told local
Soldier claims ‘nobody willing’ to join Ukrainian army – media

Draft evasion in Ukraine has taken extreme forms, a soldier serving with the infamous neo-Nazi Azov regiment has reportedly told local news outlet TSN. “Literally no one” is willing to go to the front lines, the serviceman allegedly claimed.

The man, identified only by his combat nickname ‘Niko’, said he continues to fight despite being injured and losing his leg in battle because there is simply no one to replace him.

“No one is willing to join the Armed Forces of Ukraine nowadays,” he told TSN.

People “do whatever they come up with” to escape the military draft, including “swimming across the Tisza River and drowning themselves in there,” the soldier said. He was referring to recent reports about dozens of men losing their lives in attempts to flee Ukraine and avoid being conscripted amid the conflict between Moscow and Kiev.

In March, the Ukrainian border guard service reported the 22nd drowning death in the Tisza River since the start of the conflict in February 2022. The river, which is located on Ukraine’s border with Romania, has been increasingly traversed by those seeking to flee abroad.

The Azov fighter showed little sympathy for those who have drowned, however, saying they should have fought and died like “true warriors” instead. “Go and die like a real man… instead of just drowning like a rat,” he told TSN.

Earlier, Ukrainian Land Forces Commander General Aleksandr Pavlyuk criticized those who show sympathy for dead draft dodgers. These publics expressions of sympathy undermine the draft effort and play into Russia’s hands, the general claimed in late March. He added that criticism of the draft efforts ignores “the main point: that it is illegal for men to avoid their constitutional duty of defending Ukraine.”

Draft dodging has become increasingly pressing for Kiev. Many try to escape from the country illegally. Around 20,000 people have been smuggled across the border as of August 2023, according to BBC estimates. The broadcaster also reported that attempted illegal crossings were taking place on a daily basis.

The reactions of the Ukrainian authorities to these attempts have become increasingly harsh. Videos published by Ukrainian media in March show border guards brutally beating dozens of men detained after attempting to cross into Romania. The border guard confirmed their detention at the time by publishing photos of the men on their knees in front of the security operatives.

In April, President Vladimir Zelensky signed a new mobilization bill into law. It introduced harsh conscription rules, including fines for draft dodging. 

The measures were taken amid heavy losses suffered by Ukraine in the conflict. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said in April that Kiev had lost almost 500,000 soldiers since the start of the hostilities.

Zelensky claimed in February that 31,000 troops had been killed in the two years of the conflict. According to the Washington Post, the real figures were “vastly downplayed” by the president to avoid disrupting the struggling mobilization drive. In December last year, Zelensky said the military had asked him to mobilize an additional 500,000 troops.