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Businessman, law enforcement officers in Odesa Oblast accused of helping draft-age men escape to Moldova

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 30, 2024 4:14 PM 2 min read
The State Bureau of Investigation's officer notifies an alleged member of a criminal group in Odesa Oblast on suspicion of illegally transporting Ukrainians of draft-age to Moldova on Jan. 30, 2024. (State Bureau of Investigation/Telegram)
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A group of four Odesa Oblast locals, including two law enforcement officers, has helped Ukrainians of draft age evade mobilization by escaping to Moldova, the State Bureau of Investigation reported on Jan. 30.

Under martial law that has been in place since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, it is prohibited for men aged 18-60 to leave Ukraine, barring special circumstances. The BBC reported in November that almost 20,000 Ukrainian men had illegally left the country since February 2022, citing information from neighboring countries.

Ukrainian authorities revealed that more than 21,000 had been apprehended by border guards while trying to cross, the BBC added. The majority of those caught were attempting to walk or swim across the border, but almost 7,000 tried to use falsified documents.

The recently uncovered scheme was organized by a businessman from Odesa Oblast, whose responsibility was finding people willing to illegally cross the border in exchange for $7,000 per person, according to the investigation. He allegedly forged documents to remove the evaders from Ukraine's military register due to their fake health issues.

The law enforcement officers organized formal inspections and let men with false certificates across the state border, the bureau said.

The fourth member of the group, who is legally allowed to leave Ukraine as he is a father of over three children, drove the evaders to Moldova in his own car, added the law enforcement agency.

The bureau charged the suspects with illegally transporting people across the state border of Ukraine. If convicted, they will face up to nine years in prison.

Ukrainian authorities routinely discover schemes to help men illegally leave the country to evade mobilization and prosecute suspected organizers.

The State Bureau of Investigation reported on an "unprecedented" plot in November 2023 involving regional military enlistment offices and the falsification of documents. More than 100 men are suspected of using the falsified documents to try and leave the country.

A nationwide inspection of Ukraine's recruitment offices in August 2023 revealed multiple violations, including corruption, abuse of power, and fraud, prompting President Volodymyr Zelensky to fire the heads of all regional military enlistment offices.

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Over a hundred women braved a snowstorm in early December to gather in central Kyiv’s Independence Square and call on the government to demobilize their relatives who have been on the front lines since the first days of the invasion. Draped in Ukrainian flags, women chanted, “It’s their
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