A BBC report on Friday claims that almost 20,000 men eligible for conscription have fled Ukraine to evade the draft since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, using data about illegal border crossings obtained from neighboring Romania, Moldova, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.

The BBC estimates that, based on the data they have received, 19,740 men illegally crossed into these countries, between February 2022 and Aug. 31, 2023. At the same time around 21,113 men attempted to escape but were intercepted.

While the methods of escape for those men are unknown, the BBC report specifies that of those caught, the majority, 14,313, were attempting to walk or swim across the border.

The remaining 6,800 relied on fraudulently obtained or counterfeit official documents, which supposedly said the holder was exempt from conscription due to illness or on other grounds accepted by the legislation.

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In a statement to RBC-Ukraine, State Border Service spokesperson Andriy Demchenko said he was unable assess the accuracy of the claims as he did not have access to the statistics compiled by these neighboring countries.

He indicated that Ukraine was implementing comprehensive measures to prevent illegal border crossings but acknowledged that attempts had increased significantly during the period of martial law.

Throughout this period, nearly 300 criminal groups and individuals specializing in the illicit transportation of people across the border had been exposed, according to the Border Service.

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Demchenko highlighted that since martial law began, units of the State Border Service have detained 16,700 Ukrainian citizens attempting illegal border crossings through the green zones (outside checkpoints) or by using other illicit methods.

“At the same time, more than 7,000 people were intercepted during attempts to illegally cross through checkpoints, particularly using forged documents,” the spokesperson added.

However, the Border Service notes that compared to 2022, there have been fewer attempts to violate the state border this year.

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According to Demchenko, border guards most frequently detect attempts to illegally cross the “green sections” of the border with Romania and Moldova, while the highest number of forged documents is recorded at the border with Poland.

Fedir Venislavsky, the president's representative in parliament, acknowledged to the BBC that the issue was severe.

“The government realizes that this phenomenon is not isolated and that it is widespread. But unfortunately, I would emphasize that corruption is very resilient,” said Venislavsky.

The People's Deputy underlined that Ukraine was taking the problem seriously and said that it is putting all possible measures into place to minimize corruption cases, also saying that the number of men who left or attempted to leave has no impact on the military effort.

In recent weeks, there has been a lively debate on social media regarding the possibility of allowing Ukrainians liable for military service to travel abroad during martial law if they provide guaranteed financial support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

This concept is outlined in draft law № 8029, authored by Servant of the People party member Heorhiy Mazurashu and was registered by the Verkhovna Rada on Sept. 13, 2022.

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Kyiv Post sought earlier this month to understand why the document has been actively discussed for more than a year without progressing, how likely it was to be adopted, and whether the bill is “constitutionally sound.”

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