NewsUkraine's new mobilization law: Pay or fight amid recruitment overhaul

Ukraine's new mobilization law: Pay or fight amid recruitment overhaul

Ukrainians who do not end up on the front will pay an additional tax? The photo shows soldiers during training in the Donetsk region.
Ukrainians who do not end up on the front will pay an additional tax? The photo shows soldiers during training in the Donetsk region.
Images source: © Getty Images | 2024 Anadolu
2:33 PM EDT, March 13, 2024

The upcoming mobilization bill, set for a vote in parliament on March 31, aims to refresh the legal framework in anticipation of recruitment efforts expected this year. However, the bill has sparked controversy, evidenced by over 4,000 amendments submitted for consideration, the "FT" reports. Of particular note is the proposal to lower the draft age from 27 to 25 years old, a move that has drawn fierce criticism from some lawmakers, who label it as “suicide for the nation.”

The "FT" also highlights the significant voluntarism shown by Ukrainians following Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022. Yet, the initial surge of volunteers has dwindled, and many men of fighting age are reluctant to join the front lines. The average age of soldiers now exceeds 40 years—a situation exacerbated by a demographic decline post-Soviet Union. This has left Ukraine with a smaller segment of millennials and Generation Z compared to other countries.

Millions of men eligible for mobilization

According to data from the parliamentary economic affairs committee, out of 11.1 million Ukrainian men aged 25 to 60, only about 3.7 million meet the criteria for mobilization. The remainder are either already enlisted, deemed unfit for military service, living abroad, or classified as essential workers.

The "FT" notes that Ukrainian authorities are navigating this process with caution to avoid exacerbating soldier fatigue and to prevent taxpaying citizens from fleeing or evading mobilization, as these funds are vital. Since the war's inception, there has been a ban on men aged 27 to 60 leaving the country, with few exceptions allowed.

A survey conducted in February by the Ukrainian social research organization Info Sapiens revealed a nation divided: 48 percent of men expressed unwillingness to fight, while 34 percent were prepared to take up arms. The reluctance is attributed to fears of death and injury, inadequate training, uncertain service duration, and a shortage of weaponry and ammunition.

Three years of service

The proposed mobilization law seeks to address these concerns by introducing a three-year service period with a minimum of three months' training. The aim is to attract volunteers by allowing them to choose roles that match their skills. However, external factors, such as delays in receiving military aid from the US and EU, have forced Ukrainian forces to conserve ammunition and retreat from key positions, further dampening morale.

This sentiment is reflected in a drop in optimism among those who believed in Ukraine's success with Western support, with half now anticipating pressure on Ukraine to compromise with Russia.

Besides lowering the mobilization age to 25, the new law will mandate men to register via an online portal. Neglecting to do so could lead to penalties yet to be specified, home visits by military recruiters, and suspension of driving licenses. A controversial change includes the introduction of an economic reserve system exempting economically essential men from service.

Fee for exemption from frontline duty

With already up to 700,000 essential workers exempted from mobilization, the new system requires them to financially support the war effort. Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal's remarks last week set a clear divide: those who fight and those who financially fuel the budget. This division has sparked debate over potentially creating a divide between those who can afford to avoid service and those who cannot.

The proposed fee structure by the parliamentary economic affairs committee could generate between $5.2 billion and $13.1 billion annually, assuming up to 2 million men could afford the monthly fee set at $520.

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