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Updated Apr 2, 2024, 5:22pm EDT
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Semafor Signals

Ukraine lowers conscription age to 25 as troop shortage threatens war effort

Insights from The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and Politico

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Zelenskyy
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS
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The News

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday signed a law that lowers the country’s conscription age from 27 to 25 as Kyiv struggles to replenish its troops in its war against Russia.

Zelenskyy said last year that his government was exploring ways to mobilize more than 450,000 new troops to support soldiers facing exhaustion on the frontlines. But the proposal to lower the mobilization age is highly unpopular, and Zelenskyy was reportedly hesitant about signing the bill into law.

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Some had raised the possibility mobilizing NATO troops in Ukraine to support Kyiv’s war efforts, but several bloc members dismissed the idea.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Ukraine has struggled to replace frontline troops as civilians fear combat with no way out

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, Foreign Policy

Frontline Ukrainian troops have repeatedly warned that their units are severely understaffed and exhausted, and soldiers on combat duty are rarely allowed to rotate away from the front. One commander told The Washington Post that his battalion currently had fewer than 40 troops, even though a filled battalion would consist of more than 200 soldiers. Soldiers also have no clear way of leaving the military force once they are conscripted, which has impacted morale among current recruits and caused civilians to question whether they want to join the armed forces. “For people who have not yet joined the military, the contract with the state currently sounds like, ‘You’re being recruited until you die or get injured really badly,’ and of course it’s not a good contract, so people don’t want to join,” one Ukrainian official told Foreign Policy.

Draft-dodging has worsened Ukraine’s manpower shortage

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Sources:  
Politico, The Washington Post, BBC

While Ukrainians streamed to army recruitment centers in the early months of the war, the number of conscription-age men willing to go to war that Kyiv can draw from has dropped dramatically. Thousands of Ukrainian men have kept their heads down, seeking to avoid conscription and avoiding public places where police look for draft-dodgers, Politico reported. The new mobilization law also aims to get a better overview of the country’s eligible conscripts by establishing a database of military-age men. In 2022 the country beefed up security along its border with Romania to stop draft-eligible men from fleeing the country, The Washington Post reported. Nonetheless, a BBC analysis of migration data found that approximately 650,000 men of military age have left Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.

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