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Ukraine has adopted a new mobilization law to boost its military ranks


Russia's war of attrition in Ukraine appears to be succeeding in ways its military superiority has not.


More than two years into its full-scale invasion, Russian troops are now on the offensive and Ukrainian soldiers are exhausted. So after months of deliberation, Ukraine's parliament has adopted a law to mobilize hundreds of thousands of new soldiers.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Ukraine correspondent Joanna Kakissis joins us now. Joanna, it can't be good for a country trying to win a war that they would need more troops as soon as possible.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Yes, that's right, tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in this war. Tens of thousands more have been injured. Russia has more resources, four times the population. And it's trying to win by wearing down the Ukrainian military. You know, some Ukrainian troops have been on the front line for months, up to two years. And to make matters worse, the Ukrainians don't have enough artillery shells to fight back or air defense missiles to protect themselves. The Russians are also dropping these guided bombs from fighter jets that are just destroying Ukrainian defenses.

MARTÍNEZ: And Ukrainian leaders think that this new conscription law will help turn that around? How would it do that?

KAKISSIS: So, A, the law lays the groundwork to draft more military-aged men. They would be required at all times to carry draft registration documents so conscripts would be easier to find. If they don't, they could lose privileges, like they would be banned from driving. And lawmakers are also considering imposing fines for draft dodgers in a separate bill.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so those are the sticks. Any carrots here?

KAKISSIS: Yeah, the law also offers incentives to men who volunteer for service. For example, they can get certificates to buy a car or put down mortgage payments on a house. And in one controversial move, the bill also would allow convicts to serve in return for a suspended sentence. Previously, convicts were banned from military service.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. Now, you've mentioned how exhausted Ukrainian troops are from their very long deployments. Does this law address that issue?

KAKISSIS: No, though lawmakers are considering a separate law about that. And, you know, long deployments with no end, that is what people seem to be most upset about when we speak with them. Families of soldiers are concerned that they're fighting for so long, and like I said, for two years without a real break, that some of these soldiers are forced to fight with injuries.

MARTÍNEZ: What are those families saying?

KAKISSIS: Our producer Polina Lytvynova spoke to Kateryna Ampilohohva (ph). She's a college student. Kateryna talked about her godfather, who's been stationed near the Russian border. He was hospitalized after getting hurt in action and told he can't convalesce for more than two months.

KATERYNA AMPILOHOHVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: She's saying, he's expected to return to where he was stationed at the border, even if he doesn't entirely recover from his wounds. It does not matter if he's healed because they need him on the front line.

MARTÍNEZ: So those are the families. What about the young men who could maybe be drafted?

KAKISSIS: Yeah, we also spoke with Denys Monastyrnyi (ph), who will turn 25 in four months.

DENYS MONASTYRNYI: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently signed another law that lowered the conscription age from 27 to 25. Denys told us that he's ready to serve but that he, too, worries about whether he will ever get a break. He said there seems to be no end to this war and it's incredibly hard to be on the front line all the time, for months at a time with no end.

MARTÍNEZ: Joanna, quickly - the draft age in Ukraine is 25. Why are younger men in Ukraine exempted?

KAKISSIS: Ukraine doesn't have many of them. You know, Ukraine has a very low birth rate, drastic declines in birth rates since the USSR's collapse. And if Ukraine recruits a lot of young men, it risks decimating an entire generation.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Joanna Kakissis. Thanks.

KAKISSIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.