Ukraine’s parliament cracks down on draft dodgers

By Thomson Reuters May 9, 2024 | 9:54 AM

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s parliament voted on Thursday to crack down on draft dodgers, as the country grapples with a serious shortage of soldiers available to fight more than two years after Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

The bill, backed by a majority of lawmakers but not yet signed into law by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, includes raising fines for anyone caught trying to avoid the call-up and allowing authorities to detain draft dodgers for up to three days.

It comes in the same week that parliament passed a bill allowing some convicts to enlist in the army and days before a new mobilisation law, that lowers the minimum age for new recruits, is due to come into force.

The moves reflect growing concern in Kyiv and among its allies over Russia’s battlefield supremacy.

Moscow’s much larger and better-equipped army is making small but steady gains in the east, and Ukraine is desperate to replenish stocks of weapons and ammunition as well as the number of soldiers it can call on.

Iryna Gerashchenko, a lawmaker from the European Solidarity party, said that fines for draft dodging would be raised to 8,500 hryvnias ($218), compared with 510 hryvnias ($13) previously.

The maximum penalty for those who repeatedly violate mobilisation rules would be increased to more than $5,200, she added. The average monthly wage in Ukraine is about $560.

The new mobilisation law, which Zelenskiy has signed, will require all men aged between 18 and 60 to update their personal data with military recruitment centres, in a bid to get a more accurate assessment of what resources are available.

The government also lowered the military mobilisation age to 25 from 27. There is no draft for women who can serve voluntarily.

Military analysts said Ukraine needed hundreds of thousands more soldiers this year to be able to hold back Moscow’s forces.

Maksim Zhorin, a deputy head of the Third Assault Brigade, said “the situation at the front was now truly almost the most threatening since the beginning of the full-scale war.

“We lost a lot of time, dragged on with mobilisation, and the enemy was preparing for a new stage of troop advance,” he said on Telegram.

A total of 256 deputies voted for the crackdown in the closed session of the 450-seat parliament, the government said. There were no details on how many abstained or voted against.

(Reporting by Olena Harmash)