Ukraine has remained resistant to the prospect of negotiating a ceasefire with Russia, given it would require territorial concessions—but its military problems have compounded and become increasingly openly known.
The Financial Times has reported that the Ukrainian military's manpower shortages are such that the Zelensky government has set up checkpoints to aid in tracking down potential draft evaders.
Older men have increasingly been showing up on the front lines, which has also long been an open secret, but now the military is calling on men who had previously been exempt from service based on medical waivers.
"To help fill the ranks, Ukrainian officials have set up roadside checkpoints to seek men evading the draft." The FT report continues, "If they are deemed fit, they are whisked off to draft offices. Online videos of recruitment officers picking men off the streets and forcing them into minivans have gone viral."
Thus it appears a military "medical exam" will be administered in the streets. But tragically, this is yet another grim indicator of the immense casualties Ukraine has suffered after almost two years of war. The report provides an example of how bad things have gotten in the following anecdote:
The others had received mobilization notices. Two said medical conditions had previously prevented them from serving: one cited brain damage from a freak accident, the other metal plates in his spine. The fourth — Yevhen, a 42-year-old sales manager with no military experience — said: “I’m not going to hide, but I honestly don’t know what I can contribute.”
The meagre queue was a far cry from the thousands of volunteers who lined up at recruitment centres following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
Commander of the armed forces, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, told FT of ongoing struggles to establish and train a proper reserve force: "However, our capacity to train reserves on our own territory is also limited," he said. "We cannot easily spare soldiers who are deployed to the front, [and] Russia can strike training centers. And there are gaps in our legislation that allow citizens to evade their responsibilities."
At a moment the average age of Ukrainian soldiers is 30-40 instead of the usual 18 to mid-20s, the Ukrainian government is offering high pay for anyone still willing to join.
"Soldiers who spend a full month on the front lines are being paid more than $3,000 a month — a high salary in Ukraine, where average pay is less than $500 a month, and much more than the $650 paid for troops in support roles in the rear," FT notes.
This is tragic and pathetic beyond words ...— Gender Studies for Men (@JohnDavisJDLLM) November 20, 2023
Ukraine has only old men left to fight a senseless war fueled by the US arms industry, London, Berlin and Brussels ...
These men are new recruits ... they are going to certain death.
Don't think this can't happen to you. pic.twitter.com/Bv2kto57Gr
Previously, we detailed how NATO trainers and military advisers working with Ukrainian troops in Europe and the UK are fearful of becoming too close to their trainees given the high death rate for those thrust into the war. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have been trained under the program.
One French trainer described to the Associated Press, "You have to burn bridges because otherwise you ask yourselves too many questions. When you find out that this or that person is dead, you’re bound to ask yourself what you did wrong: ‘Did we work enough on this or that tactic? Should I have insisted more on this point?'"