Newly amended army conscription rules just announced by the Ukrainian government will retain and, in some cases, expand exemptions for civil servants and skilled technicians working in war-critical sectors but – Kyiv hopes – reduce draft-dodger loopholes and deliver badly-needed reinforcements into the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s (AFU) ranks, Tuesday news reports said.
By law, all physically-fit Ukrainian men aged 18-60 are potentially subject to conscription. Since the Russian invasion in Feb. 2022, the AFU have for the most part managed to fill ranks with volunteers, but, been obliged to conscript thousands of former service members for their critical military skills, and to fill gaps in ranks left by casualties.
Draft-subject men employed in nationally-important manufacturing, government support activities may be exempted from obligatory registration with draft boards for the next six months, the Cabinet of Ministers order stated.
The official instruction dated Jan. 27, 2023 gave employers in selected sectors like energy and arms manufacturing, as well as in state agencies like local government and health support, the effective right to exempt a worker from potentially being called up if the worker is determined to be performing a war-critical job, the analytical magazine Politeka wrote in a Jan. 30 analysis piece.
Criteria defining war criticality varied by sector. Draft-liable men employed in state cultural institutions, education and science institutions, physical education and sports facilities, social security agencies, television production and broadcast businesses, international representation offices and NGOs working in humanitarian aid may, among other things, also qualify for deferment, in case of "justified need," the UNIAN news agency reported.
However, getting sacked from a job exempting a person from conscription automatically makes the former worker a potential draftee, the report said.
The regulatory changes also address widespread public complaints that local Ukrainian officials rarely wind up in military service.
The new regulation specifically states that, apart from a narrow band of war-critical positions, a minimum of 50 percent of all men working for a Ukrainian government agency, in any job anywhere in the country, must be designated subject to draft by their employer, the Politeka report added.
Colonel Roman Horbach, head of the personnel department of the command headquarters of the Ground Forces of the AFU, in Jan. 30 comments to the ArmyInform news agency said that the regulatory changes will close loopholes exploited by draft dodgers like suing to challenge the authority of an official attempting to deliver a draft notice, going into hiding in the countryside or fleeing abroad. The updated rules stipulate how draft notices can be served, by whom, and penalties for refusing to sign them, and authorize national law-enforcement to search and, as necessary, apprehend draft dodgers.
How well or poorly army conscription is proceeding has long been a political flashpoint in Ukraine. Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security Council of Ukraine, in televised comments on Jan. 30 claimed the government’s mobilization program was running fairly smoothly and that the latest changes to draft rules would make the call-up procedure more efficient and fairer.
Parliamentarian Heorhiy Mazurashu, a member of the ruling Servant of People political party, in Facebook comments made later that evening claimed Danilov was spreading falsehoods: "What deceptive and lying government bureaucrats we have. Or, maybe, they are isolated or cut off from reality?"
Anna Derevianko, executive director of the European Business Association, said: "The European Business Association has long emphasized that the country urgently needs to adopt a clear and transparent procedure of booking of employees so that businesses can continue to operate, knowing that critical employees will not be mobilized.
"After all, everyone has to work on their own front to support the country. Yesterday, the procedure was signed by the Prime Minister, hence, it has to be launched soon and Business thank that the voice of the community was heard.
"As for almost half a year the procedure of booking of the employees didn’t work because it was almost impossible to get a mobilization task. Still, very important is the practical part and realization of the procedure, thus, we’ll monitor and inform about the situation."
Yuriy Butusov, a high-profile Ukrainian war correspondent and frequent critic of inefficient Ukrainian government, said in Jan. 31 Vlog comments that Kyiv’s manpower policies are sloppy and acknowledged that draft-dodging by a significant minority of draft-subject men is chronic.
"There are lots of possibilities to dodge the draft, and people use them. There are lawyers that specialize in helping a person to avoid his service obligation, without any extraordinary tactics, and of course also by means of corruption, people get that done. That’s always been the case. We need to understand that there are actual problems," Butusov said.
Butusov called for the state to leave experienced technicians like automotive mechanics and power grid repairmen in their place of work, but to make them and their organizations directly subordinate to the military, to better support Ukraine’s war effort. He said the state needs to level with Ukrainians and make it clear that the entire nation, not just some men, must be mobilized to prevent the country from being destroyed by Russia.
"The state, unfortunately, is afraid to tell people the truth. It is afraid to say that every man who is suitable for military service could be called up," he said. "(We) have to participate in the defense of his country. That’s this year and in years to come. The better we prepare for this the more effective we will be."
Butusov stressed that a second mobilization wave is in progress in Russia, and their intent is to overwhelm Ukraine’s forces with numbers and that Ukrainians need to understand that this is a giant war and the entire country needs to organize itself for defense.
A "massive number of people" is needed, both for front line fighting units and effective supply and support in the rear, Butusov added.
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