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EU should help Ukraine address manpower shortage – Baltic state PM

Lithuania is ready to help Kiev repatriate military-age men, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte has said

The EU should assist Ukraine in returning its military-age men living abroad, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Monday during a debate on local LRT Radio, adding that her country could take steps to return some draft dodgers.

Amid a shortage of personnel on the front lines, Kiev has recently amended its mobilization laws, dropping the age of conscription to 25, tightening exemptions, and adding harsher penalties for draft dodgers. Last week, the Ukrainian authorities also suspended the issuing of passports for all men aged 18 to 60 who live abroad, in an attempt to encourage them to return to Ukraine for potential military service.

Simonyte said Lithuania could take steps to make conscription-age men return to Ukraine, for instance, by finding “ways to make sure that a person has performed their mobilization duty or is exempted from it” when applying for residence permit extensions. She noted, however, that the issue needs to be discussed at the EU level.

“We need to work not only with the Ukrainian authorities but also more broadly because right now, the EU has the so-called temporary protection in place for Ukrainian people,” she stated.

The temporary protection status grants Ukrainian refugees the right to extended visa-free stay in the bloc, as well as the right to accommodation, medical care, employment, and education. This was activated shortly after the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in early 2022, and is currently in force until March 2025.

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“Within the framework of that protection, the guarantees that are given to Ukrainian citizens in the EU are very broad, so it is clear that this question is not for one or two states to decide alone,” she added. During the debate, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda also pledged to work with Kiev with regard to mobilization efforts “in every sense,” saying, “Ukraine must have the means and instruments to invite its young men to serve their homeland.”

An estimated 4.3 million Ukrainians currently live in the EU, of whom 860,000 are conscription-age men, according to Eurostat statistics agency. According to the Lithuanian Migration Department, more than 29,000 of these men reside in Lithuania.

However, the head of the Migration Department has argued against helping Kiev with its mobilization process, saying there is no legal basis for it.

“The fact that Ukraine or another country has declared mobilization has no influence on us, according to our legislation. A reaction, if any, would be a political decision from Lithuania,” Evelina Gudzinskaite told Elta news agency, adding that while some national legislative initiatives could be taken, “there would be a huge question of how this would be compatible with EU law.”

April 29, 2024 at 09:12PM

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