While it’s generally agreed that something has to be done to replace fallen soldiers and to give those who've been fighting since the beginning of Russia’s Feb. 24, 2022 invasion a chance to rest, Kyiv is facing an uphill battle as it navigates the fraught issue of updating its conscription law.

Matters have not been helped by scandals coming to light revealing that some mobilization centers have been forcibly taking Ukrainian men off the streets and driving them away.  

Although nearly a million people joined the military – mostly as volunteers – in the first months of the full-scale invasion, according to various sources, tens of thousands are believed to have died and an even greater number have been wounded.

What is highly unusual, though, is that while Ukraine fights for its very survival as an independent nation, the average age of its fighters today is 43, and so far those under 27 have been exempted from conscription.


“I have a lot of men 40-plus and also older in my unit – almost half of all the personnel. After more than a year in the trenches, many of us are dealing with health problems, like back pain and chronic health issues are becoming more serious. Life in the trenches isn’t as easy for us as it is for younger people. Some have problems with blood pressure or kidney problems. Some require regular hospital visits,” Vadym, a serviceman from one of the Territorial Defense units, told Kyiv Post.

But replacing those who’ve been serving all this time is proving to be difficult.

Social networks have become filled with shocking videos of men being impressed into service by those working at Ukraine’s Territorial Recruitment Centers (TRCs).

One video, posted on Instagram Sunday, March 17, shows a man in Lviv being grabbed by TRC servicemen on the street and thrown into a van, “like a criminal,” a woman, claiming to be his wife, says under the video’s description.   

Hromadske reported that on Wednesday, March 20, the man in the video, Kyrylo Taran, did not show up for his summons and is now facing charges. Not showing up for a summons can result in three to five years imprisonment.


A second video from Lviv posted on Telegram at the end of November, shows a woman struggling against TRC servicemen as they grab a man and force him into an SUV – afterward, smashing her phone.

And a video posted on Instagram on March 15, allegedly shows a young man, Yevhen, from the Zakarpattia region, who appears to have been beaten. 

The person who posted the video, identifying herself as Anna, says that her boyfriend had been taken out of the hotel where he was staying. She says he was then beaten, mocked, and had his personal belongings stolen by the local Khust TRC. The young man was driven to attempt suicide out of desperation, she said. 

In a comment to the Ukrainian news outlet Suspilno, the Zakarpattian TRC, which is responsible for Khust TRC personnel, said that on March 13, Yevhen had been caught by border guards while attempting to cross Ukraine’s border illegally. They reported that the young man had been found in the bathroom with cuts on his wrists and was taken to the hospital.


Yulia Shevchenko, a spokeswoman for the Western region’s special prosecutor’s office told Suspilno that two criminal proceedings have been opened.  

The Russian influence

But while examples of abuse of power exist, they are the exceptions in a sea of cases where those summoned to service report for duty and where the TRC acts professionally, Oleksiy Bezhevets, Ministry of Defense representative told Kyiv Post.

“A lot of videos are published about how someone gets pushed somewhere… But at the same time, for some reason, there are not a lot of videos about how people come to mobilization centers, to recruiting centers, how people take their draft documents and go on to study and train for service,” he said.

Oleksiy Bezhevets. Photo by Army inform

But Russian trolls are keen not only to fabricate stories and broadcast disinformation, but also to promote and spread either genuinely negative news or put a negative spin on news stories, Director of the Institute of Mass Information (IMI) Oksana Romanyuk told Kyiv Post.

The Russian propagandists and bloggers enthusiastically pick up and spread negative narratives about mobilization – particularly on popular social networks like TikTok, Instagram, and Telegram, Romanyuk said.


They often employ automated internet bots, which leave identical copy-paste comments under videos that show mobilization in a negative light – to drum up the videos’ algorithms and get more eyes on them, she said.

“The Russians have very actively invested in the bot army and the promotion of accounts and relevant videos to disrupt mobilization, instilling an atmosphere of despair,” Romanyuk said.

Oksana Romanyuk. Photo by UNIAN

And the propaganda is getting more sophisticated, with Russian trolls now increasingly using the Ukrainian language in their videos and posts in addition to the Russian language, which is also broadly spoken in Ukraine.

“The main narratives of this propaganda are that the Ukrainian command does not value soldiers’ lives, Russian resources are limitless and will never run out, that Western allies have abandoned Ukraine, that they won’t provide enough weapons,” Romanyuk said.

“So, therefore there is no way to resist Russia. It is just unnecessary losses and if you are mobilized – it’s for sure that you will die and so on.”

As an example, here is a screen capture from a video on TikTok, a social network that’s particularly popular among young people, urging them not to donate to the army – saying the money will go to pay for cars that will then be used to forcibly impress people into service.

“When you donate 200 hryvnias for a bus, but TRC grabs you and puts you in the bus…” the video says, showing a sad hamster.



The reluctance to volunteer

In an interview with Ukrainian television on Feb. 20, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov acknowledged problems with Ukraine’s conscription program.

“I cannot say that mobilization has failed, as the [conscription] situation is even better than in autumn 2023, but it is still far from reaching the urgent needs of the front,” Yevhen Dykyi, a military analyst, scientist, volunteer, and former commander of the Aydar battalion unit, told Kyiv Post.

Yevhen Dykyi. Photo by Novynarnia

One issue is the rush of volunteers that once lined up to serve in the spring of 2022 has dried up.

An opinion commonly voiced by servicemen is that after Ukrainian successes – in first halting Russian advances and then pushing them to the east and south – those in relatively safer areas, such as Kyiv, became more complacent and less motivated to join the military.

“The war has become localized, as the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] used to be some years ago, and regular victory reports gave the impression that more effort from society isn’t necessary. Perhaps the authorities should have responded more to this,” a source in Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, told Kyiv Post.


For those living far away from the front line, except for the occasional drone or missile attack, it’s possible to feel that the war is not about you, veteran and volunteer Pavlo Cheburei told Kyiv Post.

But, in another sense, the war has had an impact on everyone.

After the war’s first year passed, there were many more graves in cemeteries. Today, almost every Ukrainian has a friend or relative who was killed or wounded in Russia’s invasion. As more people have gained first-hand knowledge of the war’s devastating consequences, the fear of fighting may have also increased.

Some people have tried to escape the draft by attempting to cross the Tisa River on Ukraine’s western border with Hungary and Romania. Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, according to Ukrainian border guards, 22 men drowned in the Tisa attempting to cross it and three have already died this year.

Old statistics

Another problem with Ukraine’s mobilization plans is that population statistics are not up to date.

“For example, in the western regions, particularly, in Zakarpattia Oblast, there are no longer 1,200,000 people, as is still written in statistics,” Fedir Shandor, a professor of history and sociology at Uzhhorod University, who volunteered to fight for Ukraine in the spring of 2022, told Kyiv Post.

Fedir Shandor. Photo by Ukrinform

“Many people are employed abroad and haven’t changed their registration, so formally, they are still here. For example, the statistics may say there are 200 people in a village, but actually there may be only 30 to 50. We were doing this research before the full-scale invasion. But the thing is that the plans of the TRC are based on old demographic statistics. It is clear that it is difficult to complete their task with such data.”

Another issue may be the so-called “dead souls” problem – when TRC recruiters attempt to draft someone who might have even been dead for years.

Systemic issues

Those wishing to fight for Ukraine – who are undeterred by Russian propaganda, the fear of being killed, or the unfortunate condition of being long dead – are wrestling with some other concrete issues.

Andrii Kuzhel, a volunteer and serviceman since 2014, the head of the Chernihiv district military administration during the siege of Chernihiv in 2022, said that those who would like to join the army have questions that authorities haven’t answered.

“Many people complain that training is awful in training centers, not as they expected, and that some commanders behave with soldiers in the [authoritarian] Soviet style. Such stories can demotivate others… And what is more important for people is to know when they will be able to return home. This is important. They need to know for how long they will be removed from the household and life. Will they return in a year? Or two? Or three? Or never? There are no answers to this today,” Kuzhel said.

Andrii Kuzhel. Photo by social media

The mobilization law, filibustering, and questions this raises

The new mobilization draft law is intended to address these problems. It passed its first reading on Feb. 12, which allowed amendments to be made to it. After the amendments are considered, it gets voted on a second time and then becomes a law or not.

However, some 4,300 amendments, most of them proposed by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, have been proposed and are holding up the process.

As is known, politicians will swamp an unpopular draft law with amendments when they wish to delay its passage. Some, particularly representatives of opposition parties, say that’s what is happening now with the mobilization draft law.

So far, only about 1,505 of the draft law’s amendments have been considered and more and more questions are being raised at home and abroad about the reasons for the procrastination. 

There have been days when the parliamentary committee in charge of considering the mobilization draft law considered just one amendment per day. Yet, as witnessed at the last meeting of the committee 660 amendments were considered at once, European Solidarity party member Iryna Friz confirmed. 

None of the lawmakers Kyiv Post interviewed was willing to offer a prediction about how long it would take for a finalized version of the draft law to be considered by the full parliament.

Obviously, the longer the process is drawn out, some of its more controversial aspects are likely to become even more contested and to impact on the ratings of the Zelensky administration in opinion polls.

The proposed draft law lowers the conscription age from 27 to 25 and adds new penalties for those found to be draft dodging – including a significant increase in fines. It proposes to define more clearly who can be exempted from mobilization and who is responsible for carrying out the mobilization in conjunction with the TRCs – be it at the level of towns or regions.

Lawmakers also propose to resolve the problem of there being no limit on the amount of time a conscripted soldier serves.

The consensus is that those who’ve served 36 months continuously – with a year to a year-and-a-half on the front line – will be demobilized and returned home.

However, according to Dykyi, even the proposed law is too “soft.” He told Kyiv Post that it is not tough enough on draft dodgers, as many of the proposed penalties for draft dodgers have been removed from the original version.

“We have two problems to solve – service term limits and punishment for evasion. I see good news on the first, but no progress on the second issue,” Dykyi said. 

So right now, as the Ukrainian leadership pleads with its Western supporters to speed up the supply of weapons and ammunition, it has laid itself open to charges that it is not showing sufficient political will at home to ensure that it has enough troops at the front. That it is not managing the vital but sensitive issue of mobilization as well it should.



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Comments (9)

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The article is such propaganda that I’m convinced it’s only targeted at those who know of nobody living in Ukraine. We just helped one of our relatives in Ukraine escape because that have 3 sons in their early 20s. We still have relatives there. The idea that young men being grabbed off the street “is an exception” is a blatant lie. It’s literally rampant everywhere. Especially in urban centers. Ask literally any person living in Ukraine.

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I left this comment after this article: https://www.kyivpost.com/post/29574 article. Seems a fitting time to re-insert it.
I like these personal stories. The more I learn about the people of Ukraine the more I grow impressed. They channel their inner strength from desire to protect loved ones. Thats it. 

Their service is not about a sign on bonus, deviant orc desire to harm others, blind obedience to a greedy tyrant, cheerleader / flag waving, or fear of jail time if refusing. Those are the motivations of those they fight against. 

This well educated soldier states why he joined: 

"Because I understand what the Russian army is. Rapes, murders, destruction, war crimes. They did all of these in Chechnya, they did all these in Syria. They did the same in Georgia. They always fight exactly the same way. Russia always does this." 

Perhaps an orc's motivation lasts a day or so, It will not motivate a return to battle after a near death injury. They fight until the opportunity to desert arises.

Some days I look around at the frivolous distractions allied citizens fill their lives with. Negligible higher purpose or stamina in the rough patches. It's mostly: "Save us government"....but seldom "We must save our nation to protect those we love". 

I feel a certain hope for humanity as I witness Ukraine's just fight. The greatest days in a nations history arise from it peoples unity towards higher purpose.

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@John, what are you talking about? This article is about how men DO NOT want to sign up to fight.

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Draft every man age 18 to 30, even essential workers. Replace with women to keep essential work going and the economy sustainable. This is how it was done in WWI, WWII and now in WWIII. Additionally, woman recruitments take over logistics for the armed forces. Fuel, supplies, food, even refurbishing equipment and mechanics. This is how you fight and win!

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The individual's submission to the state is only for the state's protection. If the state demands that we risk our health, limbs and lives for the continued existence of the state, it lacks the legitimacy to do so. That is why it is right to rely on volunteers, but there are never enough volunteers.

The neo-liberal project of the European Union offers the citizens of the participating states an extended living space, and the EU leadership is constantly striving to extend this living space to countries that have little attraction for foreign nationals. Today, millions of EU citizens and Ukrainians work and live outside their home countries because it seems advantageous.

Anyone who has to choose between several countries weighs up the options critically in search of the best solution. Hard times with no prospect of victory? Is heroism worth it when there are so many heroes? Don't women prefer a man who has not been scarred by war? Should one submit to the corrupt military bureaucracy or rather plan a life outside Ukraine, perhaps even emigrate to another continent?

In the end, individualism wins. After all, health is the most important thing in life for most people. Unfortunately, this does not lead to victory. Conscription does not fit into this picture. This war makes it clear that conscription is a very serious problem for democracies in the 21st century, especially in times of war, when it is already a major problem for the Russian dictatorship.

George Woloshyn
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There is no excuse for these ridiculous delays - over 4000 "amendments"!
In war-time? And yet we read blogs - only a day or two ago that the Verkhovna Rada is unhappy because they don't think there is enough for them to do!?

All this is nonsense. The president is the Commander-in-Chief and Ukraine is fighting for its very survival. To delay the passage of a critically important law under such circumstances is more akin to sabotage and treason than to the proper functioning of the legislative branch.

The president's office has a staff of 60 or so people and then there are the ministries. Who is minding the shop? Who is presenting deadlines for completion? Who is tolerating the clearance of a single amendment in a day and then calling it a day? Why should all these problems remain unresolved? Shouldn't the president issue instructions that he expects a new conscription law on his desk by a certain day, and then his office follow up?

In my study of any war, a nation's commander-in-chief was expected to respect normal proceedings. Still, he was also—even more importantly—the sole person responsible for the war's outcome and had a great deal of latitude in sidelining normal proceedings for the good of his countrymen, military, and country.

President Zelensky, you have always impressed me as a resolute leader. Go and shake some sense into all these ninnies who are playing with 4000 amendments while your soldiers are dying and losing ground.

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I wrote my nation's leadership (all parties, various levels) recently, as well as our DND, NRC, NATO and UN reps requesting Canada at least follow France's, Czech Republic's, Poland's and Lithuania's lead of vocally not ruling out our nation actively serving in Ukraines defence.

I suggested that at Ukraine's request, they at least commit to civil defence / peacekeeping / border protection / emergency responder / logistics / infrastructure repair and medical support roles away from the active front lines to free up Ukraine's soldiers. Admittedly thats still a cop out as I still believe allies should be part of the active fighting; with the best gear and talent we can bring to bear. Still as a first step, perhaps the above could the more palatable 'carrot leading the stubborn leadership' further along that legally / morally justified path.

I also suggested our nation better leverage our its manufacturing / innovation capacity to support Ukraines' aid needs, rather mostly just buying stuff from other nations to donate..... all too common practice for our foreign aid. Cash as aid is benevolent / flexible, there is no domestic economic advantage to it. If there was, our nations aid to Ukraine would be more sustainable. USA's weapons sales to allies last year rose 56% to $238 billion.

If enough citizens hound their leadership for a more active role in Ukraine's defence they will come around.

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Ukrainian men should be ashamed of themselves if they do not wish to step up and serve. They should be shunned by Ukrainian society. Ukraine should be seeking out volunteers from other countries who would love nothing better than to kill Russians. Put ads on craigslist and ebay. Seriously. I bet there are thousands in NATO countries including Canada and the United States with prior military experience who are chomping at the bit to serve Ukraine.

S Wolfskin
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@UKRAINE SHOULD SEEK INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEERS, The Jew already shunning Ukrainian men. Is that part of the plan??

David Steel
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NATO members can help with this situation.

It is normal that people will feel reluctant to sign up but if trained NATO troops are in place this summer assisting where needed, I think more Ukrainians will step forward to serve their people.

Come on Europe, lets get in the game and win this together.

Everyone here knows I'm a long time EU sceptic but I'd even be willing to vote for Britain to rejoin the EU if it were prepared to send forces into Ukraine. The defence of Europe should unite us once again.

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@David Steel, David, NATO is full of cowards who are afraid of the ramifications should Russia be defeated in Ukraine. They would rather prolong the status quo.

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@NATO HAD THEIR BALLS REMOVED A LONG TIME AGO, I really think you're right 😪