NewsMen flee Ukraine to avoid the military drafts. The numbers are out

Men flee Ukraine to avoid the military drafts. The numbers are out

Men are fleeing from Ukraine to avoid conscription. Numbers have been reported.
Men are fleeing from Ukraine to avoid conscription. Numbers have been reported.
Images source: © PAP | AA/ABACA

9:53 AM EST, November 17, 2023

Ukrainian men are going to great lengths, including swimming across rivers and feigning illness, to avoid being drafted into military service amidst the conflict with Russia. BBC journalists have determined the number of men who have left the country to evade conscription. As one man argues, "we're not all fighters."

Since the start of the conflict, it has been revealed by BBC journalists that nearly 20 men have fled Ukraine to escape military drafts. Among these individuals is a 26-year-old musician who explains that he swam across a river to seek refuge in Moldova.

Upon questioning by Moldovan authorities, he sought asylum, an application that should be lodged within 24 hours of entering a country to circumvent criminal prosecution.

"What am I meant to do in Ukraine?" questions Evgeny. "It's essential to understand that not everyone is a fighter…It's unjust to confine everyone, reminiscent of what was done in the Soviet Union," he opines at 26 years old.

Adding to his woes, he found it challenging to land a decently paying job as "everything is war-oriented," and bare essentials like electricity and fuel have become more expensive.

Post-Russian invasion, it's important to remember that men between 18 and 60 were generally prohibited from leaving the country. After requesting information on illegal border crossings from Ukraine into neighboring Romania, Moldova, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, the BBC has ascertained that between February 2022 and August 31, 2023, 19,740 men were smuggled out into these countries.

Yet, this is not the sole count, as an additional 21,113 men attempted to flee but were apprehended by Ukrainian authorities.

How were these attempts made? A significant chunk, numbering 14,313, tried to traverse the border on foot or by swimming across rivers, while the rest, numbering 6,800, relied on procuring phony official documents falsely asserting qualifications for exemption, such as concocted illnesses.

As per Ukrainian law, it's noteworthy that men with medical conditions, those with caretaker responsibilities, and fathers of three or more children are exempt from military service.

They issued medical exemptions. Zelensky was enraged

In August, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky voiced his contempt for the "corrupt decisions" made by military medical bureaus, which he believes led to a tenfold surge in exemptions since February 2022.

Zelensky declared that all regional officials overseeing conscription have been dismissed, and over 30 individuals have faced criminal charges.

"Despite everything, I am convinced that the readiness of Ukrainians to defend their independence, sovereignty, and freedom is between 95 to 99 percent," Fedir Venislavsky, a representative of the president in the parliament, told the BBC.

The 40,000+ people who have absconded or attempted to flee might constitute a substantial portion of the population Ukraine needs to reinforce its army. In August, US officials estimated that Ukrainian soldiers had sustained around 70,000 fatalities.

Another man, Vlad, successfully secured a valid exemption but failed to convince the border guards to acknowledge it.

He was exhilarated when he earned a place to study abroad and procured a study permit from Ukraine, but was soon disheartened upon realizing its insignificance.

"I presumed that my unsuccessful attempt was due to an unwelcoming checkpoint. I ventured to another, and then another. They ridiculed me and directed me home. I understood that this 'permit' had no value to a border guard," he elucidates.

Ultimately, Vlad exited the country by evading authorities and crossing the River Tisza into Romania.

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