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Update: Umerov says he wants to mobilize Ukrainian men living abroad

by Nate Ostiller December 21, 2023 11:15 AM 2 min read
Ukraine's Defense Minister Rustem Umerov attends an in-person Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, southwestern Germany, on Sept. 19, 2023. (AFP via Getty Images)
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Editor's note: A previous version of this story said that "Ukraine will mobilize Ukrainian men living abroad." It has been updated to reflect clarifications from Ukraine's Defense Ministry

Ukraine wants to recruit Ukrainians living abroad and may sanction those who do not show up to recruitment offices, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said in an interview with German media outlet Die Welt on Dec 21.

After the story was originally released, Defense Ministry press officer Illarion Pavliuk told the Ukrainian media outlet Babel that Umerov's comments had been taken out of context. Umerov spoke generally about how to communicate to Ukrainians, including those living abroad, about the importance of joining the army, Pavliuk said.

There is currently no active discussion on the recruitment of Ukrainians from abroad, he added.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a press conference on Dec. 19 that Ukraine plans to mobilize 450,000-500,000 new soldiers. He instructed Umerov and Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi in November to formulate a new procedure for mobilizing such a significant number of people.

Zelensky also said that the plan will need to address a number of key issues before he can officially support it, including provisions for the rotation and demobilization of troops that have been fighting for almost two years.

Umerov said that Ukrainian men living abroad would first be "invited" to report to recruiting offices, but added that measures would be taken if they did not show up willingly.

"We are still discussing what will happen if they don’t come voluntarily,” Umerov said.

BBC Ukraine reported in November that as many as 650,000 Ukrainian men of military age had left the country for Europe since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

Under martial law, it is prohibited for men aged 18-60 to leave Ukraine, barring special circumstances.

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