Zelensky lowers draft age from 27 to 25

Zelensky lowers draft age from 27 to 25

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On Tuesday, April 2, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a series of provisions designed to expand and improve the Ukrainian army’s mobilization capabilities at a time when it is struggling on all the front lines. The most important of these concerns lowering the age at which Ukrainians may be called up to fight, from 27 to 25. The president’s signature of the bill had been pending for 10 months, following a majority vote in the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, at the end of May 2023.

Lowering the legal age is one of the key measures of a broader bill aimed at reforming the conditions for mobilization. The bill, which has been the subject of heated debate within Ukrainian society, also aims to authorize soldiers to apply for demobilization after 36 months’ service, and to introduce administrative sanctions against draft dodgers.

The age threshold of 25 may seem high, given that some armies mobilized soldiers as young as 18 during wartime. The average age of soldiers in the Ukrainian army is around 40. The country’s demographic decline over several years, which has been further exacerbated by the departure of millions of women and children since the start of the Russian invasion, has made it difficult for the authorities to lower this average. Martial law has prohibited men aged from 18 to 60 from leaving the country.

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Furthermore, Zelensky also signed a law aimed at establishing a digital database of men of military age. This would enable the army to better identify the country’s human resources. This measure would allow the defense ministry to gather information on citizens aged between 17 and 60 from various government registries. Another measure authorizing military personnel to receive medical treatment for a period of 12 months – including abroad – without having to be reviewed by a medical commission within four months, as is currently the case, will also come into force.

Reduced need for new recruits

For several months now, Ukrainian society has been divided over the conditions for a new wave of mobilization, which may be needed to hold the front line against the Russian army’s onslaughts. The challenge for Ukraine has been to enable the rotation of soldiers, who are exhausted after two years of war, and to replace casualties. At a press conference in February, Zelensky gave the first-ever estimate of the number of Ukrainian soldiers killed over the two years of the war. However, the figure he cited – 31,000 – has been widely considered to be an underestimate. By the summer of 2023, official US sources quoted by the New York Times put the number of the army’s dead and wounded at 70,000 and 120,000, respectively.

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