Ukrainian men abroad are worried about having to return to fight
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Ukrainian men abroad are worried about having to return to fight

With Ukraine in dire need of troops to strengthen its defense forces in the face of Russia’s increasingly fierce attacks, the country’s embassies have suspended consular services for men of military age who are still giving birth.

Accordingly, the suspension will prevent them from being able to renew their passports, get new passports or receive documents such as marriage certificates… This is considered the first step in efforts to implement the new mobilization law.

Ukrainian soldiers wait to fire howitzers in Donetsk on April 20.

Ukraine enacted martial law immediately after Russia launched its military campaign in February 2022, banning men between 18 and 60 years old from leaving the country.

`We all feel as if Ukraine no longer supports us,` said Oleksandr, a 42-year-old from Kiev who now lives in Austria.

Supporters of the new draft law say men living outside Ukraine, potentially numbering in the tens of thousands, are not providing adequate support to the country in its time of greatest need.

Ukrainian officials emphasized that the mobilization law will increase `fairness` in military recruitment, eliminate many exceptions and streamline the military enlistment process.

In Ukraine, men who provide their information to the draft office receive documents that they then have to present when doing any work, like registering a marriage or getting a driver’s license.

Oleksandr, who had lived in Austria before the conflict, felt coerced, like the Ukrainian government was hunting him.

`I’m not afraid of death,` he added.

Other men targeted by the policy expressed similar anger.

Ukrainian government officials said that if successful, the mobilization law could provide hundreds of thousands of new soldiers to the front line in a context where the army urgently needs them to block the advance of Russian forces.

It is unclear how many Ukrainian men may be denied consular services.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry officials said they were trying to count the total number of people living abroad.

Andriy, 38, who lives in Poland, said he thought the Ukrainian government was acting impatiently.

Ukrainian men abroad are worried about having to return to fight

President Volodymyr Zelensky (center) inspects new fortifications for soldiers in the Kharkiv region, eastern Ukraine, April 9.

Weeks after Ukraine’s parliament passed a military mobilization law, many Ukrainian men are still trying to figure out what it means for them personally.

The law leaves people who leave the country to avoid the draft potentially stranded in one location, forced to apply for asylum or left in legal limbo.

Some said they felt betrayed, while others said they feared the Ukrainian government could use even more draconian measures to increase troop numbers, such as forcing those living in the country to

Officials in Kiev have tried to calm these fears.

Some said they understood the government’s situation.

`It seems they want to restore balance,` Savelii said.

`But the situation is not always black and white,` he added.

European officials appear divided over the possibility of Ukrainian men being forced to return home to fight.

Anneli Viks, advisor to Estonia’s Interior Minister, stated that her country `has no plans to forcibly repatriate Ukrainian citizens who have fled the conflict and are legally residing in Estonia,` local media reported.

Meanwhile, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Szejna emphasized that the country `certainly will not protect draft dodgers`.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the restrictions on consular services as a matter of basic fairness, but even some men not immediately affected by the new rules said they were unhappy.

Olexander, 53 years old, lives in England, said his passport is valid for another 3 years.

Olexander emphasized that he `never stopped being a Ukrainian` and `wanted to return to become more useful` in the future, but he was `not ready to entrust his life` to the current government.

Vladyslav, 36 years old, living in Spain, said he left Ukraine legally, exempted under the provisions for men with three or more children.

Still, he’s concerned about more restrictions on people living abroad, such as blocking access to Ukrainian bank accounts.

`If they suddenly do that, it won’t be okay for me personally, because I do business in Ukraine and pay taxes there,` he said.

Ukrainian men abroad are worried about having to return to fight

Ukrainian soldiers participate in a combat training exercise in Donetsk, east of the country, on March 6.

Vasily, 40, who lives in Germany, said he applied for a second passport but did not know if he would receive it.

`Russia will not be able to destroy Ukraine until Ukrainians help them do it,` he said.

Vasily said he often thinks of a friend who fought on the front lines as the only person he would feel embarrassed to face face-to-face.

`Maybe he doesn’t want to talk to me anymore,` Vasily said.

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