A Beleaguered Ukraine Lowers the Draft Age

Zelensky signs law that drops the age to 25
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 3, 2024 1:30 PM CDT
Zelensky Signs Law Designed to Drum Up More Troops
Newly recruited soldiers shout slogans as they celebrate the end of their training at a military base close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.   (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

Ukraine lowered its draft-eligible age for men from 27 to 25 on Wednesday, reflecting the strain that more than two years of war with Russia has put on its military and the need to infuse its depleted ranks with new conscripts. President Volodymyr Zelensky signed three bills into law aimed at strengthening the country's beleaguered forces, which are trying to hold the front lines in fighting that has sapped Ukraine's ranks and stores of weapons and ammunition. The specifics, per the AP:

  • Scope: The new laws, which will also do away with some draft exemptions and create an online registry for recruits, might add around 50,000 troops to the military, said an analyst with the Center for United Actions, a government watchdog in Kyiv.
  • Currently: Ukrainian Defense Ministry statistics say the country's military had nearly 800,000 troops in October. That doesn't include National Guard or other units. In total, 1 million Ukrainians are in uniform, including about 300,000 who are serving on the front lines.
  • What's needed: The estimated 50,000 new troops would be a tenth of the 500,000 additional troops that Zelensky said in December that the military wanted to mobilize, though he has since said that figure was incorrect and overly high. He has not shared a revised number, but told reporters, "I can say that Russia is preparing to mobilize an additional 300,000 military personnel on June 1."

  • Resistance: Some Ukrainians worry that lowering the minimum conscription age to 25 and taking more young adults out of the workforce could backfire by further harming the war-ravaged economy, which is why the draft age wasn't simply set at 18. But the problem has become more pressing because Kyiv is expecting a renewed push by Russian forces this spring or summer. Zelensky took almost a year to sign the law lowering the conscription age, perhaps reflecting how unpopular such a move might be.
  • Russia's numbers: The Russian military said Wednesday that it has experienced a recent surge in enlistments, attributing it to public outrage over last month's attack on a Moscow concert hall that killed more than 140 people. About 16,000 people have signed up in the last 10 days, Russia's Defense Ministry said, though its claim couldn't be independently verified. An affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the concert hall attack, but the Kremlin has insisted, without providing evidence, that Ukraine and the West played a role, despite their strong denials.
(More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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