At what price Ukraine moves to strengthen its army as

‘At what price?’ Ukraine moves to strengthen its army as war weariness grows – Portal

  • The psychological burden on families of soldiers is increasing
  • It can be observed that a darker mood is creeping into Ukrainian society
  • Army chief fears stalemate and wants more reserves

KYIV, Nov 28 (Portal) – When Antonina Danylevych’s husband joined the Ukrainian army in March 2022, he had to queue at the enlistment office alongside crowds of patriotic compatriots.

There are no crowds now, she says.

Danylevych, a 43-year-old human resources manager, gave her blessing as Oleksandr joined tens of thousands of other Ukrainian citizens to defy the Russian invasion.

Now she’s having a hard time coming to terms with it and there’s no end in sight. Her husband has only had about 25 days of home leave since he was drafted and her two children are growing up without a father.

“We want Ukraine to win, but not through the efforts of the same people,” she said in an interview at her home in Kiev. “I can see that they need to be replaced and that they also need rest, but for some reason other people don’t understand that.”

Women on the home front also need to become stronger, she added: “But at what cost have we become stronger?”

Her husband – a university lecturer with no prior combat experience who is now a platoon commander – watched his son’s wedding this year on his cell phone via video call from the destroyed city of Bakhmut. His 14-year-old daughter misses her father.

Nearly two years into the bitter war, this family and others across the country are grappling with the prospect of a much longer and more costly conflict than they had hoped, and one that some now admit they are not guaranteed to win.

This fall, Danylevich was one of 25,000 people who signed a petition to President Volodymyr Zelensky declaring that military service should not remain indefinite and calling for troops to be given a clear timetable for discharge.

The campaign, which has included two protests of 50 to 100 people in Kiev’s main square in recent weeks, highlights the increasing exhaustion of Ukrainian troops and the mounting toll taking on families at home.

Ukraine’s much-vaunted summer counteroffensive has so far failed to produce a decisive breakthrough, both sides are on largely static front lines and the question arises as to whether foreign military aid will come as quickly as before.

To sustain its war effort, the country has relied on tens of billions of dollars’ worth of arms from the United States and other allies, but supplies of artillery shells are running low and governments are more reluctant to maintain previous support.

Such protests would have been unthinkable a year ago, when national morale soared as Ukraine pushed Russian troops back from Kiev and recaptured parts of the northeast and south. Martial law imposed at the start of the war prohibits public demonstrations.

Danylevych’s campaign highlights the difficult decisions facing war planners as they try to maintain the flow of recruits to defeat a much larger army despite constant casualties, while maintaining enough manpower to sustain the devastated economy.

Only Ukrainian men between the ages of 27 and 60 can be mobilized by military service officers. Men between the ages of 18 and 26 cannot be drafted, but can volunteer.

Ukraine, which says around a million people are under arms, has banned men of military age from going abroad. Their ongoing mobilization program, declared at the beginning of the war, is a state secret. The same goes for battlefield casualties, which the U.S. estimates are in the tens of thousands.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry referred questions about this article to the military, which declined to comment, citing wartime secrets.

drowned while trying to escape

This month, Ukraine’s military chief said one of his priorities was building up the army’s reserves as he laid out a plan to prevent the war from descending into a stalemate of war of attrition that he warned would benefit Russia . The plan focuses on strengthening Ukraine’s capabilities in air and electronic warfare, drones, artillery defense and demining.

He added that Ukraine, like Russia, had limited capacity to train troops, citing gaps in legislation that he said allowed citizens to evade mobilization.

“We are trying to solve these problems. We are introducing a unified register of conscripts and we must expand the category of citizens who can be called up for training or mobilization,” he wrote in rare comments published as an article by The Economist.

The recruitment process largely takes place behind closed doors. Draft officials stop men on the street, on the subway, or at checkpoints and hand them draft papers instructing them to report to recruiting centers.

Over the past year, videos have occasionally surfaced on social media showing conscripts dragging away or threatening men they are attempting to mobilize, sparking public outcry.

Many Ukrainians were also angered by a series of corruption cases in military agencies that allowed people to avoid the draft, prompting Zelensky to fire all heads of regional recruiting offices this summer.

Rarely does a week go by without a law enforcement agency announcing criminal cases against people, including military service officials, who are accused of spending between $500 and $10,000 to provide false documents to allow people to evade mobilization or travel abroad.

On the Tisza River, which serves as the border from southwest Ukraine to Romania, guard patrols used to focus on catching tobacco smugglers, but today they detect fleeing conscientious objectors.

About 6,000 people were arrested trying to leave via this route, border guards told Portal. One of them, Dyma Cherevychenko, said that at least 19 people drowned while trying to flee the country during the conflict.

“They died in vain, died in the river when they could have contributed to the war effort,” the 29-year-old added.

University escape hatch?

The Ukrainian parliament, meanwhile, is debating a law that would ban people over 30 from using higher education as a legal route to mobilization.

The number of men over 25 who booked university places in the first year of the invasion increased by 55,000 compared to the previous year, Education Minister Oksen Lisovyi wrote on Facebook in September.

Some voices in the West have suggested that Kiev should increase the size of its recruitment by using younger men.

Ben Wallace, Britain’s defense secretary until the end of August, said the average age of Ukrainian soldiers at the front was over 40 and said it was time to “reassess the scale of Ukraine’s mobilization.”

“I understand President Zelensky’s desire to preserve youth for the future, but the fact is that Russia is secretly mobilizing the entire country,” he wrote in the Telegraph newspaper.

David Arakhamia, a senior lawmaker and Zelensky ally, said on Thursday that parliament intended to draft legislation to improve the mobilization and demobilization process by the end of the year.

The bill, he said on television, would deal with people who fought for two years without rotation, the demobilization of soldiers returning from captivity and “issues related to the draft age.”


A temporary lull in major Russian missile and drone attacks on the capital over the summer made war seem more distant, but that calm was shattered over the weekend when Russia launched its largest drone attack on Kiev so far in the war.

Some sociologists say a darker mood has taken hold across the country.

They point to polls showing declining trust in the government, which had risen sharply in the early months of the war as Ukrainian troops repelled Russian advances. Zelenskiy’s ratings remain very high, even if they are down compared to last year.

According to Anton Hrushetskyi, executive director of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, a research organization, trust in the government and parliament has fallen to 39% and 58% to 21%, respectively, from 74% in 2022.

“We had hoped to be in a better position this fall than we are now,” he told Portal.

Hrushetskyi said other factors included various corruption scandals and the belief that Western military supplies to Ukraine could and should have been more robust.

Danylevych is now preparing his home for a winter that many Ukrainians fear will bring Russian airstrikes on the power grid and energy system, leading to widespread blackouts and other outages.

“I feel depressed because I understand all the challenges of winter and when there is heavy shelling and there is no electricity or heating, I have to deal with all these problems alone.”

Her husband, Oleksandr, and his unit, Ukraine’s Fourth Armored Brigade, could not be reached for comment.

This summer, Danylevych came across a group on the news site Telegram that now includes 2,900 like-minded people, including wives, mothers and family members, who have come together to advocate for the right of war veterans to demobilize.

“Many of the women are taking sedatives and sedatives,” she said, describing a “very depressed” mood of resignation among them.

The group held an initial demonstration with around 100 people in Kiev’s Independence Square on October 27 and then wrote a letter to Zelensky laying out their arguments. No police action was taken against them.

Dozens of them returned to the square in the rain on November 12 for another protest. One held a sign that read: “My husband and father gave others time to get ready. It’s time to replace the first people!”

Additional reporting by Charlotte Bruneau and Thomas Peter; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Pravin Char

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