Zelensky lowers the conscription age by two years to support the Ukrainian army

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has officially signed a law to lower the conscription age in the embattled country from 27 to 25 in a bid to shore up its dwindling armed forces over two years of war with Russia.

The law to change the conscription age – known as 9281 – was one of three measures signed by Zelensky on Tuesday – a full year after it was passed by the Ukrainian parliament.

Speaking briefly to the press, Zelensky admitted that he was not ready to say how many new recruits the country needed.

Volodymyr Zelensky signed three new measures into law on Tuesday. Reuters

Zelensky explained that the review requested by the new Ukrainian leader, Oleksandr Sirsko, concluded that the previous estimate of the need for an additional 500,000 men was inaccurate.

As of last fall, it is estimated that about 1 million Ukrainians are in uniform – including 800,000 military personnel, the National Guard, and other related units.

Law No. 9281 differs from the more expansive bill, No. 10449, currently making its way through Parliament.

In addition to lowering the draft age, 10499 would also limit who is eligible for exemptions among other issues.

A photo of Ukrainian soldiers fighting near the front line outside Bakhmut last month. Reuters

The bill is expected to be very unpopular, and more than 1,000 amendments to it have been submitted by lawmakers.

The other two laws signed by Zelensky on Tuesday include creating an online registration system for conscripts.

“These laws only make changes to some aspects of the mobilization process. But there are still many other issues to be resolved,” said Oksana Zabolotna, an analyst at the Kiev-based Center for United Action.

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Zabolotna added that lowering the conscription age by two years may only reach 10% of the original target of 500,000 new recruits.

“There are about half a million men between the ages of 25 and 27. Some of them are unfit for service, some have left, some are (in) reserve or have the right to defer,” she explained.

The former military commander in Ukraine estimated that the army needs at least 500,000 new soldiers. AP

The average age of Ukrainian soldiers is currently around 40 years, the same level as on the Russian side, according to military analysts.

However, Russia claimed on Wednesday that it had seen a recent rise in the number of recruits, partly due to the response to last month's deadly terrorist attack in Moscow.

The Kremlin has insisted that Ukraine and the West were somehow involved in the incident that killed 140 people at the Crocus City Hall concert hall on March 22-23, even though an Islamic State-affiliated group has already claimed responsibility.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that about 16,000 conscripts had registered over the past 10 days – although these numbers could not be independently verified.

Ukraine has now been at war with Russia for more than two years. Reuters

As the war enters its third year, Ukrainians' initial enthusiasm for fighting against the Russian incursion has naturally waned.

Public support for the war remains high, although some citizens worry that drafting more young people from the labor force will further cripple the economy.

Ukraine currently prohibits men under the age of 60 from leaving the country, although some men evade conscription by hiding at home or bribery.

Commanders now say they do not have enough men and are barely holding on to their positions as the Russian offensive continues.

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Zelensky is said to have quarreled with the former military commander over the issue of new recruits. AP

Supposedly, the disagreement over mobilizing more men was one of the reasons that prompted Zelensky to dismiss the popular Commander-in-Chief Valery Zalozny in February.

In the same month, Zalozhny criticized “the inability of Ukraine's state institutions to improve manpower levels in our armed forces” in Controversial CNN op-ed.

On Wednesday, the president shared a harrowing update on the state of the ongoing fighting.

“In March alone, Russian terrorists used more than 400 missiles of various types, 600 Shahed drones, and more than 3,000 aerial bombs directed against Ukraine.” he wrote alongside footage of explosions and desperate residents fleeing to safety.

He added: “This terrorism is wreaking havoc on cities and villages across Ukraine, and Russia in particular is relentless in its bombing of the front lines and border areas.”

With mail wires




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