The Financial Times reports that Kiev is quickly depleting Ukraine’s pool of young men to conscript into its army. To add to its ranks, Kiev has set up checkpoints to catch potential draft evaders. The outlet says Ukraine is struggling to train its soldiers and has begun drafting young men who previously qualified for medical waivers.
The outlet reports, “To help fill the ranks, Ukrainian officials have set up roadside checkpoints to seek men evading the draft.” It continues, “If they are deemed fit, they are whisked off to draft offices. Online videos of recruitment officers picking men off the streets and forcing them into minivans have gone viral.”
General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander of Ukrainian forces, explained that Kiev was struggling to train a reserve force. “However, our capacity to train reserves on our own territory is also limited,” he said. “We cannot easily spare soldiers who are deployed to the front, [and] Russia can strike training centers. And there are gaps in our legislation that allow citizens to evade their responsibilities.”
Ukrainian soldiers have been trained by a multitude of NATO member nations. In total, the European Union plans to train over 30,000 Ukrainians in 2023. In France, the trainers attempt not to get too close to the Ukrainians, who will likely be killed or wounded in the conflict. The Associated Press reported that Ukrainian soldiers preparing for deployment from France to the front have resigned themselves to the “grimness of the future.”
In an effort to fill its ranks, Kiev has expanded its draft to include men who previously received a medical deferment. Additionally, the Ukrainian army is increasingly made up of older soldiers. Jack Watling, senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a UK think-tank, told FT that the average age of Ukrainians at the front and those trained by Western allies has been 30-40 rather than 18-24. Adding, the issue is not troop quantity but the “quality and capacity to command operations at scale.”
Franz-Stefan Gady, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, explained to the outlet, “Ukraine needs infantry in top physical shape. The physical requirements for the infantry are demanding and have increased as this conflict has settled into small-scale infantry engagement fought on foot in trench systems.”
Kiev has also offered high salaries and promises of becoming drone operators rather than frontline soldiers to draw more Ukrainians to the recruitment centers. The Ukrainian mobilization offices have been plagued with massive corruption. Over the summer, Ukrainian President Zelensky dismissed dozens of recruitment officials, alleging they accepted millions of dollars in bribes to give inappropriate draft deferrals.
In recent months, Kiev engaged in a counteroffensive aimed at severing the Russian hold on southern Ukraine. Ukrainian forces made insignificant gains but suffered substantial losses to troops and equipment. Washington knew that would likely be the result of the Ukrainian offensive but pushed Kiev to conduct the operations anyway.