Saturday, July 13, 2024

We are left with few soldiers, says Ukraine’s top general

If members of parliament can’t agree on a new mobilization law, they are welcome to volunteer for the front themselves, commander in chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Valery Zaluzhny, reportedly told lawmakers on Thursday.

Zaluzhny’s remarks came during a meeting of the National Security Committee of the Verkhovna Rada, according to the Ukrainian publication New Voice. The outlet cited a source who was present, but wished to remain anonymous.

“I need people,” the general reportedly said. “The Russians have already called up 400,000 and are preparing several hundred thousand more. And who do I have? Either turn to the world and ask people there, or go fight [yourselves] if you don’t provide.”

Zaluzhny insisted that unless tougher mobilization rules are adopted, “there will be no one to defend the state.” According to the same source, he also opposed a proposal to draft convicts, as this would create a perception that military service was a punishment.

“There will be 80 days of training for each person mobilized. But give me people,” the general reportedly told the lawmakers.

Kiev has struggled to replace the estimated 125,000 troops lost in the failed summer offensive. In a briefing last month, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu put Ukraine’s losses at more than 383,000 troops – both killed and wounded – since the start of hostilities in February 2022. President Vladimir Zelensky announced last month that Zaluzhny had asked him for up to 500,000 more troops.

Ukraine’s Western backers have pushed Zelensky to expand the draft to younger and older men and women as well, according to Russian intelligence. An MP from Zelensky’s ruling ‘Servant of the People’ party, Mariana Bezuglaya, has indeed proposed amendments that would allow drafting women. Her own Facebook poll, however, showed that 74% of men and 65% of women were willing to renounce their Ukrainian citizenship in order to avoid conscription.

Bezuglaya was the only committee member who wanted to keep working on the proposed amendments to the mobilization bill, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov was reported as saying at the meeting. He urged the lawmakers to take the proposal out of the committee and to general discussion in the Rada. As it currently stands, the proposal is unlikely to be adopted, Zelensky’s aide Mikhail Podolyak has said.

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