As Ukraine’s manpower on its frontlines starts to dwindle, military leaders are becoming increasingly desperate to locate new recruits to propel its counteroffensive against Russia forward; however, the number of young people volunteering for such a challenge has plummeted.
Recent videos of young Ukrainian men being conscripted across the country have circulated in popular encrypted messaging apps in Ukraine, and those fearful of being sent to the front are actively engaging in evasive and, in some instances, illegal tactics to avoid such a fate.
The brutal mobilization by Ukrainian military recruitment officers of young men has been occurring for a year and a half now, Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet reports.
“Many conscripted men are taken straight off the street by uniformed men,” it states. “Most recently in Subcarpathia, a surveillance camera recorded the overreach of the authorities as a man trying to go to a store was kidnapped from his bicycle in broad daylight.”
The man was abducted right on a street during the day by police and conscription officers in a small village in the Municipal District of Munkács, with his bicycle left in the road.
Another video showed footage of a young man being pushed against his will into a burgundy army minibus in Mukachevo, Transcarpathia.
Similar videos have been posted from other major cities across Ukraine, including Kyiv and Odessa.
Videos of such instances are going viral on messaging apps such as Telegram and Viber, which can to an extent bypass the freedom of information restrictions that are now very evident across both Ukraine and Russia.
Some of the accounts posting this content have an increasingly large number of followers — upwards of 100,000 — with some accounts geotracking recruitment patrols in real time to help others evade what is known colloquially as the “love letter.”
Other young people are simply refusing to leave their homes due to an increasing number of unannounced mobile checkpoints in regions across Ukraine where military recruiters seek to catch Ukrainian men of military age off guard and conscript them into the forces.
However, excesses are not limited to Transcarpathia. In Vinnytsia, which is located between Kyiv and Odessa, for example, a video is also circulating of employees of the local military auxiliary command forcefully stuffing their victims into a luxury vehicle.
“Many young people no longer leave their homes. There’s always a risk. You have to be really careful and look around in case there’s any danger. It’s really stressful,” said one young Ukrainian man in an interview with broadcaster France 24.
“Why don’t young people want to be drafted into the army? Because they know the price of holding the frontlines. It costs thousands of lives,” he added.
Andrii Novak, a Ukrainian lawyer and specialist in military affairs, said that corruption among military recruiters remains rife, and some conscripting officers are playing the system to get rich quick.
“Because of corruption, there are illegal methods (to avoid the war), such as paying off the people from the armed forces commissary, or paying for a false certificate of disability,” he told the French broadcaster.
It is well known that military recruitment offices have become a hotbed of corruption over the last year and a half. In Ukraine, it is no secret that mobilization can be avoided for an average of €7,000. Officers can make incredible fortunes and some do not hide their newfound wealth, arriving at work in new luxury cars.
Most recently, one Odessa military commander, Yevgeny Borisov, was found to have spent nearly €4 million over the past year on a luxury mansion on the Spanish coast, as well as nearly €200,000 on a luxury car.
He also bought his wife a chain of shops on the Costa del Sol. If all this was not enough, Borisov was able to holiday in his Spanish palace despite the fact that the borders have been closed to conscripts for a year and a half.
Borisov’s case caused such a public outcry that, after nearly two months of complaints, President Volodymyr Zelensky had to declare that such figures had no place in the army. He even promised that all military offices would be reviewed.
Ironically, it is precisely in Odessa that Ukrainian conscripting soldiers are the most aggressive and underhanded; the region also features the highest number of conscriptions.