Ukraine announced that it would suspend the issuance of documents for Ukrainian men aged 18-60 abroad on Tuesday, April 23, to review the processes and comply with the changes required by the new mobilization law, which is due to come into force on May 18.

What followed were chaotic confrontations between Ukrainians and passport service workers in Europe, with hundreds of Ukrainians protesting outside a passport office in Warsaw against the move, and some claimed that they had already paid for the documents.

However, some might be entitled to receive their documents – here’s what we know so far.

Who can receive the documents, and under what circumstances

During the suspension, Ukrainian men abroad aged 18-60 will not be able to apply for new passports, including renewals. However, they can still receive identity documents that would allow them to return to Ukraine. Emergency consular services are also available.

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Children abroad can also receive passports if the application is submitted by a military-age male; men over 60 can also apply for passports.

At present, passports for military-age men can only be issued domestically by “a territorial agency or territorial unit of the State Migration Service of Ukraine” and cannot be forwarded abroad.

Those who submitted their applications abroad before the suspension are also entitled to receive their documents, according to official statements from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

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“It is important to note that all applications for the provision of consular services, submitted by the specified date, will be considered and processed by the consular institutions in full, including applications submitted by April 23, 2024, for the issuance of a passport of a citizen of Ukraine for travel abroad,” it read.

Another statement also pointed out that the passport service – where the Wednesday confrontations took place in Warsaw – is “a separate state enterprise that is under the management of the State Migration Service of Ukraine,” not under the MFA. This could mean part of the chaos arose from ineffective communication between different government bodies.

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The suspension is expected to last until May 18

The MFA said the suspension would likely be lifted on May 18, when the new mobilization law comes into force, which would require military-age males abroad to register and update their data with the military commission (TCC) before receiving consular services such as passport issuance.

Once the person updates his data, he is entitled to full consular services.

“The Law of Ukraine ‘On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine Regarding Certain Issues of Military Service, Mobilization and Military Registration,’ which will enter into force on May 18, 2024, provides that after updating the military registration data in the TCC, a male citizen of Ukraine aged 18 and over up to 60 years of age with valid military registration documents will have full access to consular services in accordance with the law,” the statement read. 

Will Europe deport Ukrainian men? 

Having an expired passport could create legality issues for Ukrainians abroad, though EU members have yet to reach a consensus on how to react to Kyiv’s latest decisions.

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Not being able to travel aside, not having a valid passport could also mean being cut off from governmental services for Ukrainians in countries that are providing them refuge – though that differs by country.

In Germany, Berlin has emphasized equal rights between Ukrainian men and women in the country and made it clear on Thursday, April 25 that not having a current passport will not affect a Ukrainian citizen’s protection status.

Poland is less sympathetic to Ukrainian men abroad, however, where its Defense Minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz said on Wednesday that Warsaw is ready to help Kyiv to send men of military age back to “fulfill their civic obligation.”

Lithuania also said it would consider limiting social services for Ukrainian men to encourage their return, though its tone was less affirmative than Warsaw’s.

The reason behind the suspension

Officially, the MFA said it had to “carry out a colossal amount of work” to adjust its processes in order to comply with the new mobilization law.

Unofficially, many have interpreted it as a move to push military-age males abroad – more than 650,000 by some estimations – to return home and replenish the ranks to fend off Moscow’s invasion amidst manpower shortage.

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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba outright criticized men abroad for not fulfilling their duties to their homeland on Tuesday.

“How it looks now: a man of conscription age went abroad, showed his state that he does not care about its survival, and then comes and wants to receive services from this state,” Kuleba wrote on the social network X (formerly known as Twitter).

However, the sudden suspension has also drawn some criticism domestically.

“It’s time to finally get to work on keeping the country together instead of dividing it. Because that won’t exactly help us win the war. ... Today, no order for conscientious objectors to return from Monaco, Vienna or Barcelona will bring them back. You have to understand that. So to hell with them!” said political scientist Viktor Shlinchak on Facebook.

Sergey Fursa, an investment banker, called the move a “petty revenge” and “populism” in a column for New Voice Ukraine.

“Instead of resorting to unpopular measures that would bring results, it is focusing on this. ... This is petty revenge. And populism. Because with this measure the state is showing that it is taking revenge on those who have left, which is supposed to make those who have stayed happy. It is playing with the dark side of human nature,” wrote Fursa.

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However, there are also voices supporting Kyiv’s latest move.

“If you remain or want to remain a citizen of Ukraine, you have to abide by the law. ... We don’t need official citizens, an official statistical number of people who consider themselves citizens of Ukraine. We need citizens who confirm this status through concrete action,” said Political Scientist Volodymyr Fesenko.

With the US military aid package finally arriving in short order, Kyiv’s biggest challenge now is to rally enough personnel to fight. However, it has proven difficult domestically, with many reluctant to join the fight as they struggle to balance their obligations between home and country, as per a recent Kyiv Post interview with locals.

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