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Top US Senator tells Ukraine to draft younger soldiers

Lindsey Graham has said he cannot believe Kiev is allowing its youth to stay in the rear

US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) has urged the Ukrainian parliament to pass a highly controversial mobilization bill that would lower the minimum conscription age from 27 to 25 to compensate for battlefield losses. At the same time, he advocated a scheme in which the US would provide Ukraine with loans instead of non-repayable aid.

Kiev announced general mobilization in February 2022 shortly after the start of the conflict, with men between 27 and 60 eligible to be called up, although those over the age of 18 could also volunteer. In December, Ukrainian officials proposed a bill expanding the draft bracket, with reported plans to send as many as 500,000 fresh soldiers to the front line.

On Monday, Graham traveled to Kiev to discuss continued US support for Ukraine with President Vladimir Zelensky. Speaking to reporters, he said that he hoped that those eligible to serve in the Ukrainian military would join the fight. “I can’t believe [the conscription threshold] is at 27,” he added, as quoted by the Washington Post. “You’re in a fight for your life, so you should be serving — not at 25 or 27.”

“We need more people in the line,” he said.

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FILE PHOTO: The Ukrainian parliament in session.
Ukraine mobilization bill moves forward

Graham also stressed that Ukrainians need to serve regardless of whether the US sends arms to Kiev or not. “No matter what we do, you’re fighting for you.”

The US has struggled to approve President Joe Biden’s aid request earmarking $60 billion for Ukraine due to Republican opposition demanding that the White House do more to enhance security on the southern border.

Moreover, Graham appeared to endorse the approach of GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump who has advocated providing aid to Kiev in form of loans on “extraordinarily good terms.”

“I was very direct with President Zelensky. You can expect me to always be in your corner, but it’s not unfair for me to ask you and other allies: Pay us back down the road, if you can,” the senator said.

Graham’s call for Kiev to extend the draft bracket comes as Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu last month estimated Ukrainian losses since the start of the conflict at more than 444,000 troops. Meanwhile, Zelensky has claimed that Kiev has suffered only 31,000 dead.

Last year, President Vladimir Putin said that Western countries seemed determined “to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian.” He also noted at the time that while the West could provide Kiev with new arms, Ukraine’s manpower is not limitless.

March 19, 2024 at 03:48PM

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