News189,000 Ukrainians of conscription age abroad. Will Kyiv summon them?

189,000 Ukrainians of conscription age abroad. Will Kyiv summon them?

War in Ukraine
War in Ukraine
Images source: © Zelenskiy
ed. MCZ

9:57 AM EST, November 20, 2023

According to data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, more than 189,000 Ukrainians of conscription age are living in Germany currently. The "Welt" newspaper points out that considering the large, yet unreported losses on the front, the ability to conscript some of those who have fled abroad may be key for the country's effective defense.

The Ukrainian government faces the monumental challenge of bringing back these potential soldiers, which is a significant problem, especially considering the ongoing war that's now in its second year. The newspaper highlights that since the Russian invasion began on February 24, 2022, an astonishing number of 221,571 Ukrainians of conscription age (18-60 years old) have arrived in Germany. As of now, 189,484 Ukrainians of conscription age reside in Germany.

An Exodus of Thousands of Ukrainians

"Welt" reports that many of these men have already participated in battles against Russian troops. In contrast, others haven't, for various reasons such as illness, family responsibilities, or a reluctance to fight. It's estimated that beyond the officially recorded 189 thousand, another 100 thousand Ukrainians under the age of 60 are living illegally in Germany.

The Russian invasion has initiated a mass exodus from Ukraine, particularly to other countries. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 6.3 million people, primarily women and children, have left Ukraine since the war's onset, with most heading to European countries.

Eurostat data reveals that over 650,000 Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 64 are registered as refugees in 27 EU countries, as well as in Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. This represents a pool of potential soldiers, which is notably significant given the recent statement by Ukraine's new defense minister, Rustem Umerov, stating that the country's regular army only amounts to 800,000 soldiers.

"Welt" reiterates that with the unreported, presumably significant losses on the front, the ability to conscript some of those who have fled abroad might be vital for the country's defense. However, the newspaper concedes that many Ukrainians living abroad may not be suitable for military service.

Estimates from Connection e. V., a German association supporting deserters, suggests that a minimum of 175,000 men have fled Ukraine since the war began to evade conscription, with some escaping to Germany.

"Welt" highlights the growing concern and debates in Germany, noting the country's considerable contribution towards bolstering Ukraine's defense capabilities. "A few days ago, the federal government announced plans to double military aid to Kyiv next year, amounting to 8 billion euros. But, what is the efficacy of Germany's and the West's support if Ukraine runs out of soldiers?" - asks the newspaper.

Potential for Eight to Ten Additional Divisions

Addressing the situation, retired military and CDU deputy Roderich Kiesewetter said, "I don't understand why physically fit Ukrainians are in Germany instead of defending their homeland. Not everyone has to fight; they can assist with care for the wounded, rescue services, or other sectors." He estimated that with just the Ukrainians in Germany, it could be possible to establish "eight to ten additional divisions".

"Welt" affirms President Volodymyr Zelensky's government is increasingly concerned about the situation. Kyiv has no control over Ukrainians living abroad. To date, the "Zelensky government has not made a move to request other countries to deport Ukrainian men of conscription age," notes "Welt," adding that "it's hard to imagine any Western partner countries fulfilling such a demand."

The German government currently invokes the 1957 European Extradition Convention, which prevents extradition in cases of desertion. "District courts make decisions regarding the admissibility of extradition. The federal government respects their independence and thus refrains from commenting on the issue," remarked the German Ministry of Internal Affairs.

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