Ukraine’s Zelenskiy signs new army draft law to reinforce exhausted troops

By Thomson Reuters Apr 16, 2024 | 9:16 AM

(Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has signed into law a bill overhauling army mobilisation rules, according to the parliamentary website, as Ukraine seeks to address acute troop shortages in its fight against Russia.

More than two years into the war, Ukraine is on the back foot and its top military commander on the eastern frontline has said Russian forces outnumbered its own by up to 10 times. Kyiv needs fresh troops to strengthen its positions and rotate its exhausted military.

The law will come into force a month after it is officially published. It obliges men to update their draft data with the authorities, boosts payments to those who volunteer, and adds new punishment for draft dodging.

It remains unclear how many troops could be mobilised under the new provisions, although some serving military personnel and analysts have expressed concern that the law would not be effective enough in addressing the shortages.

The bill signed into law on Tuesday also lacks the much tougher sanctions for draft evasion that were contained in the initial version. The draft sparked public outcry, and there were more than 4,000 amendments before the final reading in parliament.

Zelenskiy recently signed a separate law cutting the draft age to 25 from 27 to secure more fighting power.

Ukraine began mobilisation immediately after Russia’s invasion in February 2022. The country initially saw a significant influx of volunteer fighters, but numbers later plunged, with thousands of cases of draft evasion reported since.

Kyiv troops are facing a shortage of ammunition supplies, with vital funding from the U.S. blocked by Republicans in Congress for months and the EU failing to deliver munitions on time, while Russian forces are inching forward.

Army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said last week the situation on the eastern front had significantly escalated recently and that Russian troops aimed to capture town of Chasiv Yar by May 9.

Ukrainian officials also warned Moscow might be preparing for another offensive later this spring or in summer.

(Reporting by Yuliia Dysa; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Sharon Singleton)