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The debate on the mobilization of civilians divides Ukrainians | War in Ukraine

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Ukrainian citizens are no longer joining the ranks of the army in large numbers at the start of the Russian invasion, in February 2022. (Archive photo)

Agence France-Presse

Sanction the refractory? Drawing lots to select new soldiers? Paid exemptions? A debate on mobilization rages in Ukraine, the army having to fill its ranks after almost two years of war with Russia.

The president Volodymyr Zelensky said in December that the army, which has suffered heavy losses and is struggling to find volunteers, had offered to mobilize an additional 450,000 to 500,000 personnel to deal with the estimated 600,000 Russian troops deployed in Ukraine.

But he added that he needed to hear more arguments to decide, as the subject is sensitive in a country exhausted by war, particularly after the failure of the great counter-offensive of summer 2023.

Ukrainian forces number approximately 850,000 troops. Even if they reveal neither the number of soldiers sent to the front nor their losses, every Ukrainian was able to see the military sectors of the country's cemeteries grow.

The latest American estimates, published in August by the New York Times, put nearly 70,000 dead and up to 120,000 injured.

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The patriotic momentum of the first months, when Ukrainians voluntarily left en masse for the front, is no longer there. More and more often, the media mention men who are recalcitrant to mobilization.

In this context, the government submitted a bill to Parliament at the end of December which plans to lower the age of mobilization from 27 to 25, simplifies recruitment procedures and introduces new sanctions for the refractory, such as restrictions on driving licenses and the ban on real estate transactions.

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Ukrainian military personnel participate in an anti-drone exercise in the Chernigiv region, November 11, 2023.

The text, however, restricts service in time of war to 36 months, whereas it is currently unlimited.

But for the Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Loubinets, ever more sanctions pose a problem.

We cannot reach the stage where, in fighting Russia, we will turn into something similar to Russia where the laws no longer work and the Constitution is just a piece of paper, he said on television. /p>

Faced with criticism, several parliamentary officials and the presidency assured that this text would be debated and amended.

A parliamentary committee responsible for defense began work on Thursday #x27;examination of the project behind closed doors.

Ukrainians interviewed by AFP in the streets of Kiev were divided on this tightening of the rules contained in the bill.

I am against such harsh sanctions, says Olena, 42, while Lyoudmyla, 50, whose husband and son-in-law serve in the armed forces, is of the opposite opinion. Why do some have to fight and others not? If it is a matter of national security, all citizens must participate.

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In the Kharkiv cemetery, the section reserved for fallen soldiers is growing steadily.

You have to be tough. We don't really have a choice, adds Anton, 17, who plans to enlist at 18 despite his parents' opposition.

On social networks, there are ever more calls to mobilize the children of the elite and we denounce certain proposals from political leaders.

A parliamentarian from the presidential party, Mariana Bezougla, put forward the idea of ​​an exemption from mobilization in exchange for a large donation done on a budget.

And those who have no money, let them die in the trenches and let their children become orphans, protested an Internet user on the MP's Facebook page. War is for the poor, added another.

A former Minister of the Economy, Tymofiï Mylovanov, for his part recalled that the United States had resorted to drawing lots during the Vietnam War. The state chooses a day and a month at random. People born on these days are mobilized.

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Ukrainian civilians examine their weapons in a Territorial Defense Office in the capital Kiev.

A madhouse, the lawyer retorted well known Laryssa Denyssenko, denouncing two absolutely harmful proposals.

At the same time, voices are being raised to demand a demobilization of those who have been at the front for a long time . Others want measures to push Ukrainians abroad to return to fight.

There can be no justice in this reality of carnage, estimated the writer Artem Tchekh, who joined the army as a volunteer.

But if the plumbers and office workers do not join the army, the enemy army will come to these same plumbers and office workers, he warned on Facebook.

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