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Ukraine’s Draft Troubles

As the United States ponders whether to send lethal military aid to Ukraine, Kiev has expanded the draft in an effort to bring 50,000 additional troops to the frontline. Reuters reports that the move is getting a lukewarm reception at best from Ukrainians all across the country, and that draft dodging is becoming increasingly prevalent:

In a Facebook post he later deleted, presidential adviser Yuri Biryukov said a significant proportion of conscripts in western Ukrainian regions had not turned up.

“According to unofficial sources, hostels and motels in border regions of neighboring Romania are completely filled with draft dodgers,” newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda quoted the deleted post as saying. He has not since spoken publicly about the post and did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

More than 1,300 criminal investigations have been launched against citizens suspected of avoiding military service, according to the defense ministry.

Even more ominous (thought perhaps more suspect given the source) is the TASS report that one third of those called up in Odessa are refusing to show up for service.

About 6,000 people were conscripted into the ranks of the armed forces, the national guards and the border guard service during three waves of mobilization, while more than 2,500 evaded service. About 900 cases of evasion were referred to law enforcement authorities, deputy regional military commissar Valery Ishchenko told a regional council meeting.

Protest against mobilization is growing in the Odessa region. Last Sunday, protesters hung a 15-meter banner “It is not my War. Say Stop to Mobilization” over the entrance to the marine station near the known Potemkin Stairs in Odessa.

Recall that Odessa is a Russian-language city with a sizable ethnic Russian minority. Thus far, despite some early attempts by provocateurs to create unrest, Odessa has shown no appetite to join the rebel cause and to side with Russia. Nevertheless, if these reports are true, it is appears to not be a bastion of pro-Ukrainian feeling either—and that could mean trouble. Which way Odessa goes is doubtlessly something analysts in the Kremlin are watching closely as they try to figure out just how far they might want to push their war into Ukrainian territory.

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