Recruits Between Fear and a Sense of Duty


Russia continues to attack Ukraine on a massive scale. In order to be able to counter this, Ukraine urgently needs well-trained soldiers at the front. That is why there is intensive recruitment in the country. But not everyone wants to be drafted.

It works a bit like a speed camera app that warns drivers. Except that “Kyiv Povistka” doesn’t warn of speed traps, but of soldiers. Those who approach conscripts in the city, ask for their papers and send them for screening.

“Kyiv Povistka” is a channel of the social network Telegram. The users are alerting each other here: “Schevchenko district. Metro Polytechnic Institute, near the pizzeria Domino, someone was stopped there by the army. Maybe document check,” it says there.

Another writes: “They were next to the kindergarten in Troeshchyna, they went into the backyards there, in uniform and with a folder.”

“People are buried every day”

The Telegram channel gives a glimpse of how fear works, at least among some Ukrainian men. How carefully they move around the city, so as not to run into the arms of recruiters.

25-year-old Sergiy is also afraid of it. Already in the summer he told us that he didn’t have the qualities to be a warrior. “People are buried every day – not just dozens, but hundreds. That’s when you realize you’re risking your life. Everyone is worried, some people even stay at home. They’re so paranoid that they don’t go out on the streets not go to the cinema, theater or public places where they can get draft orders,” Sergiy said.

Since then, the fear has only increased, says Sergiy on the phone. Just think of the fighting in Bakhmut. He would rather not give an interview anymore.

Around a million for national defence

A good year ago, Ukraine announced mobilization. Since then, no man between the ages of 18 and 60 has been allowed to leave the country – except in exceptional cases. Apparently, many Ukrainians don’t want that at all: they volunteered for the army. There they are trained and eventually sent into action.

But volunteers alone are no longer enough. After all, there isn’t just the army, says Oleksiy Melnyk, a military expert at the Razumkov think tank in Kiev. Together with the national guard, border guards and police, Ukraine has around one million people who have to help with national defense. And yet one senses that Ukraine needs much more. “A friend of mine is 57 years old and used to be a pilot. A few weeks ago the military asked him to serve as an infantry officer,” says Melnyk.

This is not usual and shows that the situation is not as rosy as some claim. There are also reports of hundreds of Ukrainian men attempting to leave the country illegally. “But I think that’s just a small part.”

Weeks turned into months at the front

Many in the Ukraine are experiencing how more and more friends and acquaintances are receiving conscription letters. In Kiev, hotel managers quietly complain that they are losing staff as men are drafted in droves.

Some conscripts try to justify why they don’t have to join the military: with medical certificates or certificates from their employer. They see the horrifying pictures from the front and realize that soldiers have to stay at the front for months without being replaced.

Some of them had counted on a few weeks, maybe a few months at the front. Sometimes it has become a year. A life of constant fire, far away from families.

Dark green: Russian army advancing.  Hatched: areas annexed by Russia.  |  ISW/03/08/2023

Dark green: Russian army advancing. Hatched: areas annexed by Russia. Image: ISW/03/08/2023

Maxim just had ten days home leave. Soon it’s back towards Zaporizhia, to the southern front. He has already reported back to the police station in Kiev. He fights back tears because he has to leave his family again. In addition, the fighting at the front is becoming increasingly fierce.

“To be honest, I’m a bit scared. But I’ve gotten used to it. I’m more worried about my family,” says Maxim. They would try to call him every day. But sometimes there is no connection. “I’m mostly worried about relatives crying for me. I came, there were tears.”

Motivation of the Ukrainians still high – despite everything

Nevertheless, many people would still volunteer, says military expert Melnyk. The motivation of many Ukrainians is still high. According to Melnyk, around 10,000 applications were received after the Ministry of the Interior announced that it would form new assault battalions.

At least he can count on Volodymyr. He has just come from the commissariat where he registered with the military. Volodymyr is an internally displaced person from the city of Mariupol, which is occupied by Russia. In Kiev he works as a sound engineer in a theater.

“If I get drafted, I’ll go”

For a long time he avoided the service with the weapon. And yet two souls beat in his breast. There is the fear of war, but also the feeling of having to do one’s part. “Maybe I have to face the war and defend myself,” says Volodymyr.

Because if you’re always on the run, it’ll never stop. The Russians would always go on and on and on. “There’s no other choice and I’ve come to terms with it. I’m afraid to go to the front as a volunteer, but if I’m called up, I’m going.”

“The current soldiers are not enough”

It is quite possible that he too will soon receive mail from the army. Because this war will last. Ukraine wants to defeat the Russian invaders and needs not only tanks, but also personnel. People willing to die for it.

“No, the current soldiers are not enough, because the enemy is pushing forward,” says Ihor Romanenko, a retired lieutenant general. “And we’re talking about the counter-offensive. You need more forces to launch it.”

It is therefore necessary to remember that the mobilization is ongoing. “It started on February 24, 2022 and has not ended to this day.”

Source Tagesschau