Ukraine adjusts its mobilisation policy

On 16 April, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law amending certain legislative acts regarding the rules for conducting mobilisation and performing military service in wartime. The Ukrainian parliament adopted it on 11 April after several months of legislative work, which was accompanied by a nationwide debate on the state of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) and the need to replenish and rejuvenate their ranks. The law will come into force on 18 May.

The most important modification involves the requirement for all men aged between 18 and 60 to update their personal details (including their place of residence) within 60 days. This can be done either in person at military draft centres or online. Failure to meet this requirement may result in a court prohibiting a specific individual from using their private means of transport. As regards men residing abroad, if they fail to update their personal details before the set deadline, they will be denied consular services, including the issuance of a new passport. Aside from these modifications, the law does not impose any penalties for failing to register at military draft centres and evading conscription.

The amendment also confirmed the reduction of the conscription age from 27 to 25 years, which had been introduced on the basis of another law which President Zelensky signed on 2 April. In addition, the document also introduces the institution of basic military training for men aged between 18 and 25, which replaced the previously cancelled compulsory basic military service. The training is expected to start in September 2025; in wartime it will last no longer than three months.


  • The law signed by the president does not introduce any major amendments to the valid legislation. This means that it will not result in a quick replenishment of the AFU’s ranks with younger individuals or eliminate the shortage of military personnel (see ‘On the threshold of a third year of war. Ukraine’s mobilisation crisis’). Unless additional regulations are adopted, over the next few months mobilisation will still be carried out by handing in individual call-up papers (with no electronic communication). These documents will be issued on the basis of the incomplete registers currently kept by the military draft centres, or in an ad hoc manner when checking men’s ID in public places. One major modification involves the introduction of the requirement to update one’s personal details within two months; this also applies to individuals residing abroad. In future this may facilitate the updating of military registers and the assessment of Ukraine’s mobilisation potential, and thus the effort to devise comprehensive plans for staffing the AFU in wartime. However it is unclear how this task will be carried out, since no penalties for those evading conscription have been introduced.
  • In theory, the decision to lower the conscription age from 27 to 25 years could result in replenishing the AFU with several tens of thousands of young men by the end of this year. However, it is unclear how many of these individuals are currently residing in Ukraine and are included in the military registers, and thus how quickly the 25- and 26-year-olds will receive their call-up papers. Moreover, the move to reduce the conscription age by just two years seems to have been a ‘play it safe’ decision, considering Russia’s advantage on the front and the AFU’s mounting problems. Increasing numbers of officers on active service and a portion of the public believe that this modification has come at least a year too late; these voices propose rapidly lowering the conscription age by several more years.
  • Although the initial government-drafted bill did contain provisions regarding the conditions for demobilisation, these were ultimately removed at the request of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Oleksandr Syrskyi. This sparked a major commotion in Ukraine, especially among soldiers and their families. They argue that volunteers who enlisted in 2022, voluntarily signed their military contracts and have been fighting for two years, have effectively now become uniformed slaves, and desertion or injury are frequently the only ways they can leave the ranks of the military. Alongside this, they highlight the privileged situation of hundreds of thousands of men who are not facing any serious penalties for evading military service, who have been exempt from conscription, or who have left the country illegally without any consequences.
  • The only solution to the personnel shortage problem involves the regular and consistent replenishment of the AFU with young, physically fit men, who (after undergoing the relevant training) will be able to reinforce the infantry brigades in particular. This will enable the military to gradually rotate the sub-units, withdraw some of the most experienced soldiers to the rear (for example to serve as instructors for recruits), and to demobilise those veterans who have been affected by serious family or health problems. However, this process will last several months, and its first effects will only become evident in autumn and winter at the earliest (assuming that the scope of mobilisation increases during the spring and summer).
  • The circumstances of the law’s preparation and enactment corroborate President Zelensky’s unwillingness to announce a comprehensive mobilisation and to take responsibility for enforcing it. Over recent months he has failed to issue an appeal to the public to join the ranks of the AFU due to the difficult situation on the front and the military’s personnel shortage. He has also failed to condemn those who dodge conscription, or to support plans to punish these individuals. It should be noted that in line with the current legislation the president is the main centre of power, who is responsible for mobilisation of both the AFU and the country’s economy in wartime. The valid legislation (in particular the law entitled ‘On preparation for mobilisation and on mobilisation’) grants him major prerogatives to direct this process, including by expanding the scope of compulsory conscription to include further selected categories of citizens.