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Ten Ukrainian volunteers fled country – official

A group of men escaped under the pretext of delivering aid amid fears of total mobilization in Kiev

A group of volunteers, who had been granted exemptions to temporarily leave the country to deliver humanitarian aid, have failed to return to Ukraine and vanished abroad, authorities have said.

Under martial law, which Kiev introduced in February 2022, Ukrainian men aged between 18 and 60 are banned from leaving the country without a special waiver. Kiev authorities allow male drivers of military age to cross the border provided that they are transporting aid.

In a video message on his Telegram channel on Saturday, Aleksander Prokudin, the head of Kiev’s military administration for Russia’s Kherson Region, said that he granted permission to travel abroad to ten representatives of the United Ukraine and Adzhalik volunteering organizations.

The volunteers indeed brought back some aid on their first trip, and even published photo evidence of the delivery. But when the permission was issued for the second time, they chose not to come back.

“To our great regret, not everyone who calls themselves a volunteer is such in reality. Sometimes they hide their selfish goals behind the word ‘help’,” Prokudin said, without clarifying where and when exactly the incident took place.

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“I appeal to all those who think they are ‘smarter than others’. You are breaking the law. And you will definitely be held accountable,” the official stated. He added that the border-crossing exemption has been withdrawn for these individuals and the law enforcement authorities are investigating the illegal crossing.

Since the beginning of the military conflict with Russia, thousands of Ukrainian men have managed to leave the country with the intention of escaping the draft. Various schemes including buying medical exemption papers, bribing recruitment officials, and illegal border crossing have been utilized.

On Friday, a high-profile Ukrainian reporter Aleksey Pechiy announced his decision to stay in the EU, after he received a waiver to travel to Brussels to cover the European Council summit. This betrayal of public trust, as his former employer described it, triggered concerns that Kiev might harshen travel rules for journalists and other professionals.

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Ukraine to see ‘total mobilization’ in 2024 – officer

Earlier this week Ukraine’s Defence Minister warned that all Ukrainian men of military age who fled abroad will be “invited” to the recruitment centers, arguing that it is “an honor” to defend the country.

Ukraine is currently struggling to refill the ranks of its army after a failed summer counteroffensive and is taking additional measures to enhance border controls. 

President Vladimir Zelensky previously stated that the Ukrainian military was looking to enroll between 450,000 and 500,000 people into the armed forces.

December 24, 2023 at 09:07AM

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