Thirty men have died trying to leave Ukraine to avoid fighting since war started

By Thomson Reuters Apr 29, 2024 | 11:08 PM

By Oleksandr Kozhukhar

KYIV (Reuters) – About 30 Ukrainian men have died trying to illegally cross Ukraine’s borders and avoid fighting in the war against Russia which started in 2022, the spokesman for Ukraine’s border service told Ukrinform news agency.

“Some lost their lives while attempting to cross a mountain river or traverse mountains,” said Andriy Demchenko, according to a Ukrinform report late on Monday.

“Overall, since the full-scale invasion began, about 30 people have died attempting to illegally cross the border.”

With some exceptions, Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country as they may be mobilised to fight, according to Ukraine’s martial law.

On Monday, the State Border Guard Service said in a statement on social media that 24 men alone have died while trying to cross the Tisa river on Ukraine’s border with Romania.

Demchenko said that since the start of the war border guards have uncovered about 450 criminal groups that have attempted to smuggle people across the border.

“Attempts to illegally cross the border occur every day,” Demchenko said. “Most of these attempts are outside of border checkpoints on the border with Moldova and Romania. The largest number with forged documents is recorded on the border with Poland.”

Earlier in April, Demchenko told Ukraine’s state broadcaster that on average about 10 men are stopped each day trying to illegally leave Ukraine.

Last week, Ukraine suspended consular services for military-age male citizens until May 18, criticising Ukrainians abroad who it said expected to receive help from the state without helping it battle for survival in the war against Russia.

In November, BBC said in a report based on data of illegal border crossings from Romania, Moldova, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia that nearly 20,000 men have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the war to avoid being drafted.

(Writing by Lidia Kelly in Lisbon; Editing by Michael Perry)