Home News Ukraine expands conscription, some men go into hiding

Ukraine expands conscription, some men go into hiding

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First, Vladimir stopped going to central Kiev to avoid document checks by conscription officers. Then, he stopped going to the gym because of patrols nearby. Now, he spends most of his time holed up in his apartment, often watching through binoculars as police handed out conscription notices to passengers leaving a nearby metro station.

“They are everywhere now,” said Vladislav, 45, who, like other Ukrainian hiders interviewed for this article, asked that his last name not be published. “I will try to avoid being caught,” he said, “but I’m not sure it’s possible.”

As Russian forces advanced across the front lines, Ukraine’s military was desperate to replenish its war-torn forces and launched a mass mobilization campaign backed by new laws.

While many Ukrainian men have responded to the call for conscription, others have tried to evade it. Before the latest mobilization, thousands of men had fled the country to avoid military service, some of whom had Swim across the river between Ukraine and RomaniaNow, as military officers call for men of military age (currently ages 25 to 60) in cities across the country, many like Vladimir are in hiding, fearing that conscription means a one-way ticket to the front.

It is unclear how many men are in hiding, but in large cities such as Kiev and Lviv, social media Groups Inform members, who number in the tens of thousands, about the movements of recruiters.

Interviews with more than a dozen men who said they were staying home to avoid being drafted revealed a range of reasons. All said they were afraid of dying in a conflict marked by bloody trench warfare and devastating bombings. Many also said they opposed conscription because they believed Strict draft strategy and a Lack of adequate training.

“I’m worried that I won’t get enough training, and then I’ll be transferred to a more frontline location, and then I’ll die meaninglessly,” said Mykyta, a 28-year-old web designer from Lviv in western Ukraine.

These concerns have been met with some army AnalystThey argue that Ukrainian troops often lack adequate training, making it difficult for Kiev to hold its ground as they are quickly sent into the field to replace combat losses.

Col. Volodymyr Novosiadlyi, a conscription official in Kyiv, said training lasts at least a month and the army tries to treat conscripts fairly and with empathy. But he added that “every citizen should understand the need to fulfill their duty” to defend their country.

Many Ukrainian men join the military out of a sense of civic duty. New Mobilization Law passed in AprilUkraine’s Defense Ministry said 1.6 million soldiers had updated or registered their details on a government website, the first step before possible conscription.

Since the beginning of the war, conscription has been somewhat chaotic; Rampant corruptionThere is no lottery, and the government’s strategy is to randomly hand out draft notices in apartment buildings and on city streets. It is illegal to ignore the draft notice.

The new law requires all men of military age to register, including providing their address, with the government, which will select them for the draft. Failure to register by July 16 will be a crime.

Timofey Brik, a sociologist at the Kyiv School of Economics, said the polls “show that Ukrainians’ willingness to defend their country has remained consistent throughout the war,” with about a third expressing a willingness to serve in the military.

Yet Ukraine’s mobilization has caused bitter divisions in society. Vitaliy Bondarenko, a 29-year-old conscript in Lviv, said that every time his car stopped, men would scurry away.

“They saw us and ran away,” he said.

Many Ukrainian soldiers resent those who try to evade the draft, saying their actions undermine the country’s war efforts. “Given the intensity of the current fighting, the army cannot fight without regular reinforcements,” said Mikita, 25, another recent conscript who gave only his first name in accordance with army regulations. He added that denying that reality “is unacceptable and simply stupid.”

For much of the first two years of the war, the Ukrainian military refrained from mass mobilization, relying instead on tens of thousands of volunteers who joined the military after the war ended. Russia invaded in February 2022.

But by late last summer, after Ukraine’s counteroffensive failed and Russian forces stepped up their attacks, the need for more soldiers became apparent.

“That’s when the first red flags appeared,” said Vladislav, a journalist, who said a conscription notice was taped to his apartment door in September.

Vladimir ignored it, hoping it wouldn’t be legally binding because the soldier hadn’t handed him the letter, but his fear of being drafted grew. He said he had fallen into depression. During a recent interview in the park outside his apartment, he shuddered when he saw a soldier walking by.

Oleksandr, 32, a data analyst from Kiev, said he “started to get scared” last summer after seeing police stop a man outside a metro station near his home. “They grabbed him by the shoulders and took him into a car,” he said, adding that police lined up along the station’s exit stairs to prevent anyone from escaping.

“I felt like a hand was trying to grab my shoulder,” he said.

Some men who have dodged the draft say they now take taxis to avoid being dragged off the street and forcibly taken to recruitment centers, as has happened several times. Others rely on food deliveries to evade conscription officials.

Oleksandr said he has begun assessing which routes are safest for getting to work and monitoring groups on the Telegram messaging app where people can track the whereabouts of conscripts. A group with over 200,000 members Use colors like green to indicate the presence of recruiters and warn of the risk of being stopped on sunny, cloudy, and stormy days.

“But after two weeks, all the routes I could take became unsafe,” said Oleksandr, who recalled being unable to sleep. “The fear built up over time, like a lump in the chest,” he said. He now works from home almost every day.

Vladimir, Mikita and Oleksandr all stated that they donated money to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and were not completely opposed to joining the army.

They said their main objection was to Ukraine’s mobilization process, which they said ignored people’s physical abilities and skills and simply sent them to die. They said medical examinations were often rushed and training sessions were not long enough.

Jack Watling, a military expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based defence think tank, said most Ukrainian soldiers would be lucky if they received five weeks of training. By comparison, Britain trained infantry for about 22 weeks during World War II.

Col. Novosidelli noted that recruiting officers are often veterans and have a difficult job because of the hostility they face on the streets.

He said they mobilized people “not because they enjoy doing it” but because they understood the urgent need to replenish troops.

Nevertheless, Ukraine’s increased mobilization efforts, including Strengthen border patrols Catching those who try to flee the country.

Another 28-year-old web designer from Lviv, Andri, described himself as “a bit paranoid.” He stayed at home for days and relied on friends to bring him food. When he did go out, he wore an electronic bracelet with a red SOS button that sent his location to relatives.

Andre said that if he was caught, he would press the button so they could find out which recruitment center he was taken to and try to help him.

Oleksandr, a data analyst, said he did not want to break the law and would eventually update his information online, after which he expected to be called for a medical examination. Because of his thin build, he hoped he would be declared unfit to compete.

But he said, “It feels like winning the lottery.”

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