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Ukraine is struggling to recruit soldiers as it prepares for new offensive, with some spending thousands to flee the country: report

Mar 24, 2023, 22:46 IST
Business Insider
Ukrainian servicemen who recently returned from the trenches of Bakhmut on a street in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine on March 8, 2023.AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka
  • Ukraine is struggling to recruit more soldiers, per The Wall Street Journal.
  • Some young men are spending thousands of dollars to escape the country, the report said.

Ukraine is struggling to recruit soldiers as it prepares for a new offensive against Russia, with some young men spending the equivalent of thousands of dollars to flee the country, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A growing number of young Ukrainians are trying to avoid being called up to fight against Russia, even though support for the country's military effort hasn't fallen, according to the Journal.

Early on in the war people were eager to serve, but now many of those remaining are less willing to sign up to fight, the report said.

This struggle comes as Ukraine prepares to launch a new counteroffensive to push Russia back, following months of stalemate.

Ukraine's top ground forces commander said on Thursday that Ukraine would be starting this offensive "very soon."


Ukraine banned men aged between 18 and 60 from leaving the country shortly after Russia launched its invasion. But it has so far not introduced compulsory service.

And now a growing number of men are trying to avoid fighting, including by fleeing the country.

One 38-year-old told the Journal that he spent almost $10,000 on three different schemes to leave, with the last one – where he posed as an aid worker – working. He eventually made it over the border to Poland, and then on to Canada.

Authorities in Ukraine said that more than 9,000 men left Ukraine in 2022 using documents for volunteers and aid workers without coming back in the time period allowed, according to the Journal.

Other reports have outlined how young Ukrainian men have left by trying to cross borders on foot, enrolling in a university outside Ukraine, or find work as a volunteer emergency aid driver.


At the same time, Ukraine has started to rely more on enlistment officers to sign people up, the Journal reported. These officers wear military clothing and give out summons in public spaces.

One 25-year-old told the Journal that he had spent months avoiding any public spaces, including cafes and restaurants, so he could avoid being called up. He added that he was giving part of his wages each month to the Ukrainian military, and believed others could fight better than him.

Ukraine's challenges are exacerbate by the relative size of the two countries. While Russia is suffering major losses, it has a population of more than 143 million people, according to 2021 World Bank figures. Ukraine has just over 43 million.

Russia's government has also been willing to take stronger coercive measures to get people to fight.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meanwhile, has said that Ukraine can't force people to fight using violence, as Russia has been accused of doing, the Journal noted.


Russia's army has struggled since it launched its latest offensive earlier this year, and Ukraine's numbers will be boosted when troops being trained by allied countries rejoin the fight.

But with no end in sight to the war, it's not clear how much Ukraine will struggle to replenish its ranks going forward.

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