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Mobilization in Ukraine: politicians against the military

07/21/2022 04:37:28 pm
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Not even a month goes by without some kind of mobilization-related scandal in Ukraine. Recently, the information space was blown up by the order of the General Staff on the ban on the movement of persons liable for military service across the country without the permission of the military registration and enlistment office.

As a result, the scandalous order was cancelled, but after that, unprecedented activity began in Ukrainian cities to serve summons in public places (beaches, parks, bus stops and checkpoints).

OstroV's interlocutors in the country's political leadership assure that there are no problems with the recruitment of troops and mobilization, so no radical actions in this area are needed today.

"The military just want to play it safe and take into account the maximum number of people. As they say, just in case. Yes, no one cancelled our counteroffensive, no one knows how it will go and how many people will be needed", - the interlocutor in the mono-majority said.

OstroV found out why there was a scandal with the movement of conscripts across Ukraine and whether we should expect a softening of mobilization, which has been talked about for more than a month.

 

What happened

On July 5, the AFU General Staff reported that conscripts, those liable for military service and reservists cannot leave their place of residence during martial law without the permission of the territorial recruitment and social support center (military registration and enlistment office). The statement immediately caused a flurry of criticism in social networks. Even the president had to get involved, who publicly asked the General Staff not to make such decisions without his consent.

The most interesting thing is that initially, the information from the General Staff was spread by people's deputy from the Servant of the People Oleksandr Fediyenko, who posted the relevant order in his Telegram channel.

OstroV's sources in the mono-majority claim that they do not know where Fediyenko got this internal order from (which, by the way, should not have been made public).

"He is silent, he does not admit it. He says that it was sent by a friend from some oblast administration just for familiarization", - one of the people's deputies told.

While the General Staff tried to issue clarifications on how this procedure works several times, Ukrainian politicians criticized it one after another. Moreover, they were criticized both by representatives of the mono-majority and the opposition.

"The decision that without the permission of the military registration and enlistment office, men (and soon women) cannot travel outside the city of residence is nonsense, which will entail an explosion of public anger and the collapse of the economy. As a full and capable citizen, I personally do not see the need to obtain permission from someone to move within my country. In general, I would like the state never to mention me, and our interaction was limited to the clicks in Diia. As a deputy, I will make every effort to change the legislation that made the adoption of this nonsense possible", - people's deputy from the Servant of the People Roksolana Pidlasa wrote on Facebook.

It is worth noting that Commander-in-Chief of the AFU Valerii Zaluzhnyi did not come up with anything new, he only reminded the Ukrainians of the norm of the law "On military duty and service", prescribed back in 1992. It does indeed prohibit conscripts, those liable for military service and reservists from changing their place of residence without the permission of the recruiting center where they are registered.

The only caveat is the interpretation of the norm. Some believe that it refers specifically to the change of place of permanent residence or registration, others – to movements around the country in general.

"I remind you that there is a war going on. Your state needs you! Everyone who is still not or has not been restored to military enlistment must do this. Those who are going to travel outside their districts and oblasts must obtain permission from the territorial requitement center", - Zaluzhnyi insisted.

The final point on the issue was put by President Volodymyr Zelensky, who instructed the Commander-in-Chief of the AFU to cancel the procedure for issuing permits to persons liable for military service for movement around the country.

How legally this instruction of the president is – an open question, because the norm was not repealed by law, therefore, in fact, Zelensky ordered not to comply with the article of the law.

According to OstroV, a special group of experts and people's deputies has now been created, who are working on changes to the legislation.

 

Military versus civilians: is there a conflict?

Many considered this to be Presidential Office’s specially planned campaign aimed at discrediting the General Staff and Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi, who signed the relevant order. Rumors of a strained relationship between them have been circulating for more than a month.

According to OstroV’s information, this is not entirely true. Valerii Zaluzhnyi's order surfaced absolutely by accident and it was unplanned. But when a fuss was made in the information field, the Presidential Office could not help but take advantage of the situation.

"The fact that this decision would not work was already clear. At least in its announced form. The military registration and enlistment offices’ work would simply collapse, which is unacceptable during the war. There were two options: to settle it down quietly or to make out of it a beautiful story with a happy ending. The Presidential Office chose the latter. But this does not mean that there is some kind of conflict or war between Zelensky and Zaluzhnyi. They have a calm working relationship. One does not get into politics, the other one - into the details of military affairs. As long as this persists, there simply cannot be any conflict", - the interlocutor who is close to the president said.

According to him, Zelensky "absolutely correctly" asked Zaluzhnyi not to make such high-profile decisions without coordinating them with the Presidential Office.

"After all, the situation turned out to be ridiculous: Zaluzhnyi didn’t do anything new, but it was presented very poorly. All these ridiculous explanations from the General Staff only aggravated the situation. If this was done correctly, then the order could work and permission from the military registration and enlistment office would be required only for those who move for permanent residence. Instead, it was wrongly interpreted that it would not be possible to travel freely around the country. But the ship has sailed and changes to the law are needed", - the source said.

Another interlocutor emphasizes that already for several months, there has been a certain split in the country's leadership regarding how mobilization should be carried out in Ukraine.

One more radical part (mostly military) advocates maximum restrictions, massive delivery of draft cards and punishment for ignoring them.

The other part believes that mobilization in its current form has exhausted itself and needs to be revised.

"It (general mobilization - ed.) does not make any sense. We will not be able to arm all those new conscripts. Mobilization is going on now. And there are enough volunteer fighters. Only this week, my two close acquaintances enlisted themselves. And they are slowly recruiting officers and soldiers of certain specialties that are needed. It is no secret that we have about 700 000 of armed men. The President named this figure. These are all the defense forces. And we have only around 120 000 of heavy weapons. The rest are infantrymen. At best, they have a machine gun or a grenade launcher. Therefore, it is easier to transfer them from this category and to replenish mechanized units to make up for losses, rather than get newbie conscripts", - advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Oleksiy Arestovych said at the end of June.

Voluntary mobilization was recently advocated by Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Denys Monastyrsky.

"I believe that mobilization is the business of every citizen, it should be carried out voluntarily", - he said.

He also spoke about whether it is legal for police to hand out draft cards, for example, at checkpoints or during raids. According to Monastyrsky, all defense forces help our defenders today and "any such actions are taken solely at the request of the Armed Forces of Ukraine".

"The law requires that a person must be on an appropriate record, if the Armed Forces of Ukraine undoubtedly demand that a person be on such a record, this record must be provided. But, as you can see, the clear position expressed by the President of Ukraine is that there should be no issues with travelling between regions. I think that every citizen of military age should have his own conscious position on this", - the minister stressed.

Earlier, advisor to the head of the Ministry of Interior Affairs Viktor Andrusiv offered to set an official fee of 3-5 thousand dollars for the permission to leave the country. According to him, a total ban does more harm.

OstroV's interlocutors from the country's leadership claim that there is no open conflict between the supporters of these two approaches, but if such scandals are repeated, "the situation may get out of control".

"The quieter the mobilization goes the better. No one disputes its necessity, but you need to understand the people, ordinary Ukrainians. Either they are chased after outside with these draft cards, or the General Staff wants to ban them from moving around the country. Many are still shocked that they cannot go abroad where their families have moved. In general, everything needs to be done smoother. As far as I know, this is the position of Volodymyr Zelensky and his entire Office", - one of the people's deputies from the Servant of the People party told OstroV.

 

Draft cards via Diia app

There are discussions in senior leadership about using Diia e-governance app for military registration and serving draft cards.

According to OstroV’s information, representatives of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine met with the Ministry of Digital Transformation officials several times to request the development of a mechanism for military registration through the mobile app.

"The Ministry of Digital Transformation did not refuse this idea, but it is in no hurry to implement it. We are well aware that after such a decision we will lose the lion's share of Diia users. After all, this is our target audience and the most active users - young people in their 20s and 30s. If there is no app, there would be no draft card. No one will risk and they will just remove Diia. We cannot force them to keep the phone app, so all our previous work can be in vain. But the Ministry of Defense does not leave attempts to reach an agreement. As far as we know, the minister and president are against it", - a government official said on condition of anonymity.

Recently, the Ministry of Defense publicly announced for the first time that they are considering the possibility of digitalizing some stages and elements of military registration, including using the Diia application.

"We have a general policy of the state - this is "a country in a smartphone". And the process for registering and accounting for military service in future can also be partially transferred to a digital mode using Diia", - spokesman of the Ministry of Defense Oleksandr Motuzyany stated.

According to him, such work is already being carried out by the relevant departments.

OstroV's sources confirm that the work is underway, but now it is at a preliminary stage and may be delayed.

"Plan B is to add some features, but definitely not serving draft cards, but, for example, simply displaying a military ID. But even this will take more than several weeks or even months", - the source said.

The Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov stated quite clearly that there would be no serving draft cards through Diia.

"This will definitely never happen. It is now possible to receive notifications about court cases in Diia. If desired, this function can be turned off", - Fedorov said at the end of June.

Mobilization easing

Despite the information that has appeared about possible restrictions for those liable for military service, the Presidential Office continues to discuss the easing of mobilization. This was reported to OstroV by several interlocutors from the top political leadership of the country.

"The problem is how it will look like. There is a signal from the president to calm down the population and to relieve some tension caused by active mobilization and handing out draft cards on the streets. But it has not been decided yet how to do it. There is an option with gradual expansion of the categories of people who can leave the country. The second one is to name a category of people who are not subject to mobilization, but who are prohibited from leaving the country (for example, IT workers). The economic block of the Presidential Office will not support the first option because it will lead to an outflow of money. There was even an option with the temporary cancellation of mobilization, but the General Staff nipped it in the bud", - a source in the Presidential Office told OstroV.

There are problems in the process of easing the mobilization. In particular, this is the position of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, where they are categorically against this.

But supporters of the lifting of some restrictions continue to talk about it. For example, in early July, Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Oleksiy Arestovych again spoke about easing the mobilization and allowing people to leave the country.

"The number of categories of men who will be allowed to travel abroad is increasing. The discussion is now underway and the authorities are moving in this direction. Permission will be granted to sailors working under a contract, parents with children of a certain age... Many options are being discussed... I have too much respect for my people to think that everyone will run away from the country. And those who will run away – will the army even need them with such motivation?", - he said.

According to him, work on amending the regulations governing the departure of men abroad is underway and decisions will be made within a "reasonable timeframe".

It should be noted that such statements were made back in May, but were never implemented.

According to OstroV’s information, work to ease the mobilization has been going on for more than a month, but so far, there is no agreed position between politicians and the military.

One interlocutor suggested that real results will only be seen when the military mobilizes enough people.

"Mobilization is carried out not only for sending conscripts to the frontline. It is also aimed for a real understanding of how many reservists we have, who in a short time can take weapons and go to war. As soon as the General Staff reports that we let’s say, have like 2 million of prepared fighters and we do not need more, then the processes for the easing of mobilization and other rules will begin. They will not be handing out draft cards on the streets forever", - he said.

The Verkhovna Rada has already registered bill No. 7484-1, which proposes to significantly expand the list of men who can leave Ukraine:

- those who support three or more children under the age of 18 or two children under the age of 14 (or one child under the age of 14 if the woman is proved to be pregnant with a second child), or one child under the age of 3;

- those who have real estate, business or certificate of permanent residence in other countries;

- those who have valid work or sports contracts in other countries (or official confirmation of the intention of legal entities in other countries regarding their employment) or contracts with customers from other countries for a period of 1 year or more for the provision of IT services, consulting services subject to the payment of a single tax in Ukraine;

- those who have or used to have work visas to other countries;

- those whose family members are legally staying in other countries;

- sailors;

- other categories, which, due such an opportunity, will actually bring incomparably more benefits to the domestic economy (and, consequently, defense capability) than being unemployed in Ukraine without the ability to support themselves and their families.

In addition, the document proposes to expand the categories of citizens who are not subject to conscription during mobilization and add there those who already perform important functions in the rear.

Despite the fact that the bill was registered by a people's deputy from the mono-majority, OstroV's sources in the Servant of the People political party are skeptical about the adoption of this particular document.

"This is a trial document, we are looking at the reaction of society, the military, politicians and experts. We do not take it seriously. Judging by its content, this is a maximum program. But we ourselves will not make such important decisions. This is the president's prerogative. There may be a lot of initiatives, but the final decision will be made by Zelensky", - one of the people's deputies said.

 

Andriy Andriyev, OstroV