Ukrainian border guards have detained almost 8,000 men who tried to sneak out of the country over the course of the year, as well as 3,000 more who had fake documents purportedly exempting them from military duty, a spokesman said on Friday.
Speaking to journalists in Kiev, Andrey Demchenko of the State Border Service tallied up the 2023 arrests of draft-dodgers, as Ukraine continued to struggle with mobilizing replacements for reportedly huge battlefield losses.
“A total of 7,700 violators who tried to illegally cross the border ‘through the woods’, meaning outside of designated crossings, were detained in the first eleven months of this year,” he said.
Most of those attempts were on the borders with Romania and Moldova, while far fewer draft-dodgers attempted to cross into Poland.
About 3,000 more Ukrainians attempted to leave through the checkpoints by presenting forged documents – such as medical exemptions and disability certificates – declaring them unfit for military service, Demchenko noted.
Fewer men tried to flee Ukraine this year than in 2022, Demchenko noted, claiming that last year the border guards detained between 80-100 men per day.
He would not comment on whether the illegal crossings were related to mobilization for the armed forces, however, noting that the only correlation he could speak about was the weather.
“The increase in attempts was recorded when the weather conditions were favorable,” Demchenko told reporters. “Because when it gets cold and it snows, the terrain becomes impassable, and there are fewer people willing to cross the border.”
The Border Service has discovered more than 220 groups that allegedly organized the escape of draft-dodgers from Ukraine, Demchenko claimed, over which over 1,400 people were charged with criminal offenses.
Although the Ukrainian government has not officially disclosed its casualties in the conflict with Russia, President Vladimir Zelensky recently announced a plan to mobilize 500,000 additional troops to make up the battlefield losses. Kiev has also demanded EU countries send back men of military age who have fled, while proposing to expand the draft age to men under 25 as well as women.