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The new law on mobilization. Will he solve the problems in the army

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photo captionThe Mobilization Law was passed against the background of statements about the upcoming large-scale offensive of Russian troops

April 11, 2024

The Verkhovna Rada adopted the law on mobilization, which in recent months has been the subject of fierce disputes in the Ukrainian political environment and, more broadly, in society.

The main task of the law was called the strengthening of mobilization processes, but there is no unequivocal opinion among observers as to whether the final document is able to cope with this task.

In any case, it formally strengthens the rules of military accounting, strengthens sanctions against “evaders” and specifies the provisions on postponement of mobilization. A flurry of indignation on social networks the day before was caused by the exclusion from the draft law of the provisions on the demobilization of the soldiers of the Defense Forces of Ukraine, who are already fighting, as well as the mandatory rotation of the military on the front lines.

The deputies adopted the law on mobilization against the background of statements by the leadership of Ukraine about the future large-scale offensive of Russian troops, which is supposed to begin at the end of May – the beginning of June this year.

History of Ukrainian mobilization

image captionVolodymyr Zelensky announced general mobilization in Ukraine on the first day of a full-scale Russian invasion

Volodymyr Zelensky announced general mobilization in Ukraine on the first day of a full-scale Russian invasion, February 24, 2022.

Since then, the Verkhovna Rada has been extending the validity of this presidential decree every three months, that is, from a formal point of view, mobilization in Ukraine has been going on continuously for the third year.

In fact, in the third year of the great war, this process is in a systemic crisis.

In the first weeks and months after the invasion, queues of those willing to join the Defense Forces lined up near the Ukrainian Territorial Completion Centers (TCCs). The TCC simply could not cope with such a large number of volunteers, and people without military experience were often simply sent home.

In just a few months, the situation has changed dramatically. The flow of volunteers was exhausted, and the Defense Forces needed replenishment of losses and recruitment of new recruits to implement the assigned tasks. In this situation, the Armed Forces of Ukraine had to resort to “classical” methods of recruiting recruits.

Here they faced several problems. First, the legislation on mobilization, which had not been updated for years, was rather weakly correlated with the challenges of wartime.

Secondly, as it turned out, the system of military accounting in Ukraine was far from perfect. The TCC simply did not have information about the place of residence, the social status of millions of conscripted residents of the country, who, contrary to the requirements of the law, were not registered, not wanting to fall into the field of view of the army system.

Under these conditions, incidents involving “alert teams” that sent men of draft age who are not on military registration to the TCC became quite common on the streets of Ukrainian cities.

There were also frequent complaints by combatant units about the quality of the replenishment that came to them. Observers pointed out that the average age of those mobilized has recently exceeded forty years, and also that the mobilization most often concerns residents of villages who are not ready for combat operations on the modern battlefield.

In this situation, in the summer of last year, work began on a comprehensive law that could smooth out the current flaws of the mobilization system in Ukraine.

The work on this project was complicated by the fact that, due to the growing unpopularity of the topic of mobilization in Ukrainian society, none of the top politicians, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, did not want to be associated with a document designed to activate the recruitment of new recruits to the army.

At some point, the discussion about the project, which was being prepared in secret from the public, began to resemble a game of “hot potato” between the military leadership, the president, the government, and members of the Council.

After all, the first version of the draft law on the mobilization of the authorship of the government was submitted to the parliament in the last days of December last year. After a wave of criticism of the document, this project was withdrawn and after revision was registered in the Council on January 30.

Deputies submitted more than four thousand amendments to it, they were considered by the parliamentary committee on national security, defense and intelligence for several weeks, and only on Wednesday the final document was brought to the session hall.

Everyone needs mobilization

image captionThe passage of the mobilization law should give the president an argument in his negotiations with Western partners

Observers agree that the adoption of the law on mobilization in Ukraine in the third year of the war unleashed by Russia was overdue and overdue, and for several reasons at once.

First of all, the situation at the front has long demanded the activation of conscription.

“I am asking you very much to adopt this law. We really need it. We are holding the front with our last strength,” General Yuriy Sodol, commander of the Joint Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, addressed the deputies immediately before the vote in the session hall of the Verkhovna Rada.

According to him, the shortage of personnel in the Ukrainian army is so strong that in some areas of the front, the Russians outnumber the Ukrainians by seven or even ten times.

Replenishment of the ranks of the Armed Forces is particularly urgent, also based on Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s statements about the preparation of a large-scale mobilization by the Russians, followed by a new major offensive on Ukrainian positions.

The Ukrainian military, many of whom have been fighting on the eastern front not only since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russia in February 2022, but also since the time of the ATO in Donbas, that is, actually since 2014, is demanding increased mobilization.

Replenishment of the Ukrainian army with new forces is considered the only way to provide experienced and tired soldiers with the opportunity to rotate and rest. However, on the eve of the final consideration of the law on mobilization in the hall of the Verkhovna Rada, the provisions on the possibility of demobilization of soldiers after three years of service and mandatory rotations of soldiers on the front lines were removed from its text at the initiative of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Oleksandr Syrskyi. These issues should be prescribed in a separate law.

In the end, the adoption of the law on mobilization turned into an element of the foreign policy game with the participation of Ukraine.

It is no secret that Kyiv is now completely dependent on the financial and military aid provided by its Western partners.

And among them – at least among some part – recently there is growing skepticism about the continuation of such support.

In other words, say representatives of the Ukrainian authorities, some partners are desperately looking for an excuse to curtail aid to warring Ukraine, but blame it on Ukraine itself. Such sentiments, they continue in Kyiv, are being promoted by Russian “well-wishers”.

In an interview recorded last week with the “national telethon”, Volodymyr Zelenskyi said that Russian propaganda used Kyiv’s delay in passing the law on mobilization in order to sow doubts about the feasibility of further support for Ukraine in the West.

“The Russians managed to raise the issue that our people are not ready to further defend the state due to (non-acceptance) of this law. They raised the issue in the West in such a way that today the West is asking us: if you don’t want mobilization, the parliament doesn’t want to vote, then why should you help, why should we help?” – said Volodymyr Zelenskyi.

In this sense, the Council’s adoption of the long-suffering law should add arguments to the Ukrainian president in his negotiations with Western partners.

What is in the new law?

Photo caption Many Ukrainian soldiers have been fighting on the eastern front since the days of the ATO in Donbas

Observers evaluate the law on mobilization adopted by the parliament and the consequences of its adoption ambiguously.

His supporters say that he will help solve almost all the problems of the Ukrainian army at once.

More moderate commentators draw attention to the fact that in the conditions of total mobilization, which formally began in 2022 and has not stopped since then, one should not have inflated expectations for this document.

“Whatever the law on mobilization is ultimately adopted, it will not affect the pace of mobilization, because this law is primarily not about, conditionally speaking, an additional increase in the number of mobilized people, but about accounting,” he said in March of this year Member of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security Serhiy Rakhmanin on the talk show “Ukrainian Pravda”.

The lion’s share of the innovations prescribed in the new law concerns the strengthening of military registration rules for Ukrainian conscripts so that the army system “sees” them, and is not forced to recruit people to the army almost blindly.

Within 60 days from the date of entry into force of the law, all Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 (including those who are abroad) will have to update their military registration data. In the future, they will be obliged to carry their military registration documents with them during the entire period of martial law and to present them at the request of TCC employees or police officers.

The legislation introduces the concept of a conscript’s electronic cabinet: every Ukrainian man of military age can voluntarily set up one, and his communication with the army system will take place through it.

Men who are not on the military register will not be able to issue a foreign passport or (here we are talking about those who are abroad) use consular services.

In addition, the law limits the ability of “evaders” to work in the civil service and allows the TCC to initiate the deprivation of their driver’s licenses through the court.

The methods of influencing potential violators of the legislation on mobilization include a significant increase – tenfold – of fines for such violations. Such a draft law was voted on the day before in the first reading, but its adoption as a whole seems to be only a matter of time.

The law adopted on Thursday confirms the right to deferment from mobilization for parents with many children (except for those who have child support arrears), single parents, adoptive parents, as well as those citizens whose close relatives died or went missing while defending Ukraine.

Employees of law enforcement agencies, deputies of the Verkhovna Rada and no more than two of their assistants for each, heads of central executive bodies, judges will receive armor from mobilization.

Students of full-time universities and institutions of vocational and technical education, as well as teachers who work at least three-quarters of the time, are not eligible for military service.

Citizens with disabilities, those released from captivity, as well as young men under 25 can be mobilized only if they wish.

Separately, the law stipulates that all mobilized must undergo the necessary military training.

After the adoption of the law, it must be signed by the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada. Then the document is sent to the president for signature. The law will enter into force a month after Volodymyr Zelenskyi signs it.

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