Opinion

War: Ukraine lowers conscription age as Russia outguns soldiers

Ukraine has lowered the minimum conscription age from 27 to 25 as the country’s forces have been outnumbered and outgunned by Russia.

The forces have been forced on the defensive with widespread fatigue at the front and in society at large.

The bill expands the number of civilians the army can mobilise into its ranks to fight under martial law, which has been in place since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022 and has sparked heated debate.

The bill recently signed by Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has been on his table since it was approved by lawmakers in May 2023.

In the first weeks after the invasion, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Ukrainians volunteered to serve at the front in an explosion of patriotism that helped keep the country independent and fight off the initial attack.

More than two years later, however, many of those initial recruits are dead, wounded or simply exhausted, and the army needs new recruits to fill the ranks.

By now, most of those who want to fight have already signed up, leaving the military to recruit among a much more reluctant pool of men.

Kyiv has also been battling a shortage of ammunition supplies as vital funding from the US remains blocked by Republicans in Congress.

Viral videos have shown men snatched from the street to be conscripted, and there have been numerous corruption scandals of officials taking bribes to provide exemption. In August, Zelenskiy fired every regional recruitment chief.

Zelenskiy said in December that his military had proposed mobilising up to 500,000 more Ukrainians into the armed forces.

It is unclear how many men will be affected by the new law.

Data on Ukraine’s male population, cited by the Financial Times, showed that of 11.1 million Ukrainian men aged between 25 and 60, only an estimated 3.7 million are eligible for mobilisation.

The others are fighting, disabled, out of the country or considered critical workers.

Zelenskiy also separately signed a second bill requiring men who were given military waivers on disability grounds to undergo another medical assessment, another measure that could help the military draft more fighters.



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