‘At this age, it is already difficult to perform all the necessary tasks’ – Ukraine’s army faces serious problem as older men fill the country’s ranks

People pray during the funeral ceremony for Ukrainian army officer Vasyl Medviychuk in the Carpathian mountains in Krasnyk village, Ukraine, Friday, Dec. 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

As the war in Ukraine approaches its second anniversary, the average age of Ukrainian armed forces personnel is rising. Middle-aged men are fighting against Russian aggression today, making it difficult for commanders to plan and conduct the operations needed to achieve campaign objectives.

“The average age of a soldier in my battalion is 45,” Dmitro Berlin, battalion commander of the 32nd separate mechanized brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, told the publication. The brigade’s soldiers are fighting today near Kupiansk, one of the targets of the Russian Armed Forces’ winter offensive campaign.

“At this age, it is already difficult to perform all the necessary tasks. Some even find it hard to carry ammunition and body armor while on the frontline,” Berlin admitted.

According to the commander, the battalion is not getting fresh forces or younger soldiers. At the same time, it is suffering more and more casualties:

“There are fewer and fewer men (under my command), and the quality of the unit’s reinforcement is getting lower and lower each time,” he said.

In the wars of the last century, most troops were made up of men in their 20s and 30s and even younger. Even today, the average age of most Western armies is significantly lower than in Ukraine. For comparison, in 2021, in the U.S. it was 28, and in the UK in 2023 it was 31.

Although official data on the Ukrainian armed forces is not available, The Sunday Times estimates that the current average age of Ukrainian soldiers is 43. Presidential adviser Serhii Leshchenko admitted two months ago that he had heard “disturbing data” from a battalion commander in Donbass. Apparently, some of the brigades engaged in last year’s counteroffensive had an average age of 54.

“An assault soldier can’t participate in an assault operation at that age,” Leshchenko said.

The average age of Ukraine’s population today is 40. Its population since the collapse of the USSR has fallen from 52 million to 37 million if the population of the territories annexed by the Russian Federation is taken into account. The average life expectancy of men in 2023-2024 will fall to 57, and of women, to 70. These indicators will not return to the pre-war level of 66 and 76 years, respectively, until at least 2032, says the Kyiv Institute of Demography and Social Research.

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