Proposed military service reforms could expand mobilization and remove certain rights from non-compliant citizens
Ukrainian lawmakers are considering new mobilization rules that threaten draft dodgers with heavy penalties and could lower the age of eligibility for conscription.
The draft bill was submitted to the Ukrainian parliament on Monday, with the full text released on Tuesday. Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, who added a legally required justification for why the changes are needed, claimed that the amendments would accommodate “a large number of citizens who wish to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Should the 72-page bill be signed into law by President Vladimir Zelensky, a key change would be lowering the minimum mobilization age from 27 to 25.
Under a declared mobilization – which has been in force in Ukraine since hostilities with Russia erupted last year – eligible citizens would be obliged to report to conscription centers within 60 days for a medical examination, and to register in a state-run electronic service.
The current system requires officials to find potential draftees and deliver a summons in person, allowing people to avoid conscription simply by hiding or running from recruiters. The new bill would give police officers and municipal and local authorities the power to enforce mobilization, which is currently a task for the military.
Ukrainians ignoring the obligation to report would see their rights restricted in numerous areas, including having their social benefits cut, being banned from driving or receiving a driver’s license, and being denied the right to receive loans or sign real estate deals. They would also be prohibited from leaving the country – a restriction that is technically already in place.
The document also abolishes annual conscription, leaving only career soldiers and officers in the standing army during peacetime. Instead, adult Ukrainians will be required to undergo basic military training lasting up to three months, before they turn 25.
In addition, “partial eligibility” – a medical status that people with certain disabilities can currently be assigned – would also become a thing of the past. Conditions that warrant the status include having one eye or leg, lacking a kidney or bladder, or having a growth deficiency resulting in being under 130cm tall, according to Ukrainian media.
“Partially eligible” service members are intended to be assigned tasks in line with their capabilities, although in practice things may be different, media reports have indicated. If the draft bill is adopted, they will be re-examined by military medics.
The document provides certain benefits to military service members, such as relief for former POWs, and details exemption from mobilization for certain groups, including some university students and public servants, or pregnant women who are otherwise eligible for the draft.
Earlier this month, Zelensky said the Ukrainian military wants to mobilize up to 500,000 people to replenish its forces. Russia claims that Kiev’s troops have suffered over 383,000 casualties in the almost two-year-long conflict.
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