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Ukraine suspends consular services for military-age men in draft push

FILE - A local woman rides a bicycle on April 18, 2024, in front of a building destroyed by a Russian airstrike in the frontline town of Orikhiv, Ukraine. (Andriy Andriyenko / AP Photo) FILE - A local woman rides a bicycle on April 18, 2024, in front of a building destroyed by a Russian airstrike in the frontline town of Orikhiv, Ukraine. (Andriy Andriyenko / AP Photo)

Ukraine on Tuesday suspended consular services for military-age male citizens until May 18, criticizing Ukrainians abroad who it said expected to receive help from the state without helping it battle for survival in the war against Russia.

Hundreds of thousands of military-age Ukrainian men are living abroad and the country faces an acute shortage of troops against a larger, better-equipped enemy nearly 26 months since Russia's full-scale invasion.

Ukraine adopted a law last week overhauling how it mobilizes civilian men into the armed forces to make the process more effective, addressing what military analysts say is a key challenge if it is to hold out against advancing Russian troops.

"How it looks like now: a man of conscription age went abroad, showed his state that he does not care about its survival, and then comes and wants to receive services from this state," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on X.

"It does not work this way. Our country is at war... Staying abroad does not relieve a citizen of his or her duties to the homeland."

His harsh tone appeared to reflect mounting frustration in Kyiv with those Ukrainian men based abroad who are not contributing to the war effort.

There have been numerous cases of draft dodgers fleeing the country.

Some 4.3 million Ukrainians were living in European Union countries as of January, 2024, of whom about 860,000 are adult men, the Eurostat database estimated.

In practice, the suspension means military age men now living abroad will be unable to renew expiring passports or obtain new ones or receive official documents such as marriage certificates.

Mobilisation law

The suspension will remain in effect until the mobilization law and its regulations enter force on May 18, the foreign ministry said.

Under the mobilization law, all military-age men will be required to report to draft offices to update their papers, remotely or in person within 60 days. Military-age men abroad will need those papers to receive consular services.

The suspension means people hoping to rush through urgent consular services before the law comes into effect will not be able to do so.

Volodymyr Fesenko, a Kyiv-based political analyst, said the move looked like an attempt to pressure men to comply with the new legislation coming into force and to force them to submit their current personal data to the military authorities.

He said it was unlikely to prove effective, adding: "But sooner or later many men will have to choose whether to confirm their Ukrainian citizenship."

Ukraine imposed martial law at the start of the full-scale war, banning men aged 18 to 60 from travelling abroad without special dispensation and beginning a rolling mobilization of civilian men into the armed forces.

Russian forces are slowly advancing in eastern Ukraine, taking advantage of acute shortages of artillery shells and depleted ranks of exhausted Ukrainian soldiers, some of whom have been fighting since the start of the invasion or earlier.

A Ukrainian man living in Warsaw, who asked not to be named, told Reuters by telephone he thought the suspension would alienate citizens loyal to Kyiv.

Another Ukrainian, 21-year-old Anatoly Nezgoduk, who is studying in Canada, said: "I understand very well that there is a war in our country, so I can't call this move weird, illegal or incorrect.

"In a way, this distances me from Ukraine's official representation abroad."

(Reporting by Yuliia Dysa in Gdansk, Anastasiia Malenko, Felix Hoske, Olena Harmash and Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Ed Osmond and Gareth Jones) Top Stories

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