Zelensky lowers draft age two years to bolster Ukrainian army

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law officially lowering the embattled country’s draft age from 27 to 25 in an effort to shore up its dwindling armed forces over two years into the war with Russia.

The conscription age change law – known as 9281 – was one of three measures Zelensky signed on Tuesday – a whole year after it was passed by the Ukrainian parliament.

Speaking briefly to the press, Zelensky admitted he was not prepared to say how many new conscripts the country needed.

Volodymyr Zelensky signed three new measures into law on Tuesday. REUTERS

An audit requested by Ukraine’s new commander, Olaksandr Syrsku, determined that a previous estimate of a need for 500,000 additional men was inaccurate, Zelensky explained.

As of last fall, about 1 million Ukrainians were estimated to be in uniform – including both 800,000 military troops and the National Guard and other related units.

The 9281 law is different from a more expansive draft bill, 10449,  that his currently making its way through the parliament.

In addition to lowering the draft age, 10499 would also specify who has a right to exemptions in addition to other issues.

Ukrainian servicemen pictured in action near the frontline outside of Bakhmut last month. REUTERS

The bill is expected to be very unpopular, and has had over 1,000 amendments submitted by lawmakers.

The other two laws Zelensky signed on Tuesday included the creation of an online registration system for recruits.

“These laws introduce changes only to some aspects of the mobilization process. But still, there are many other issues that have to be resolved,” said Oksana Zabolotna, an analyst with the Kyiv-based Center for United Actions.

Lowering the draft age by two years may only reach 10% of the original goal of 500,000 new recruits, Zabolotna added.

“There are about half a million men aged 25-27. Some of them are unfit for service, some have left, some are (in the) reserve or have the right to deferment,” she explained.

Ukraine’s former military commander estimated that the army needed at least 500,000 new troops. AP

The average age of Ukrainian soldiers is currently around 40 – the same as on the Russian side, according to military analysts.

Russia, however, claimed on Wednesday that it has experienced a recent surge in enlistments, in part due to the response to last month’s deadly terror attack in Moscow.

The Kremlin has insisted that Ukraine and the West were somehow involved in the incident that killed 140 people at the Crocus City Hall concert venue on March 22-23, despite the fact that an affiliate of the Islamic State already claimed responsibility.

About 16,000 recruits have signed up over the last 10 days, Russia’s Defense Ministry said – though those numbers could not be independently verified.

Ukraine has now been at war with Russia for over two years. REUTERS

As the war enters its third year, Ukrainians’ initial enthusiasm for fighting against the Russian incursion has naturally waned.

Public support for the war remains high, though some citizens worry that recruiting more young adults out of the workforce will further cripple the economy.

Ukraine currently bans men under 60 years old from leaving the country, though some men are evading the draft by hiding at home or bribery.

Commanders are now saying that they do not have enough men and that they are barely clinging onto their positions as Russia’s assault drags on.

Zelensky is said to have sparred with the former military commander-in-chief over the issue of new recruits. AP

Disagreement over mobilizing more men was supposedly one of the reasons why Zelensky fired the popular commander-in-chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi in February.

That same month, Zaluzhnyi slammed “the inability of state institutions in Ukraine to improve the manpower levels of our armed forces” in a controversial CNN op-ed.

On Wednesday, the president shared a grisly update on the state of the ongoing fighting.

“In March alone, Russian terrorists used over 400 missiles of various types, 600 ‘Shahed’ drones, and over 3,000 guided aerial bombs against Ukraine.” he wrote alongside footage of explosions and desperate residents escaping to safety.

“This terror is wreaking havoc on cities and villages throughout Ukraine, and Russia is particularly relentless in bombarding frontline and border areas,” he added.

With Post wires




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