The president keeps himself out from the mobilization draft law, it is criticized by civilians and advocated by Zaluzhnyi. Hereʼs how it was appeared

Oksana Kovalenko
Dmytro Rayevskyi, Kateryna Kobernyk
The president keeps himself out from the mobilization draft law, it is criticized by civilians and advocated by Zaluzhnyi. Hereʼs how it was appeared

Getty Images / «Babel'»

In order to continue the war, Ukraine needs to mobilize almost half a million people — President Volodymyr Zelensky declared this number at a press conference on December 19. Previous attempts at mobilization were not very successful. A special working group has been developing new rules and regulations since the end of June 2023. The result of her work was a draft law, which the Ministry of Defense submitted to the parliament on December 25. From the beginning, it was developed together with another project, which was supposed to reform the work of territorial recruit centers (TRCs) so that mobilization was fair and efficient. But for the time being, the second project was postponed, and only the first — with general provisions on mobilization — was submitted to the parliament. The text of the project caused a violent reaction: it was criticized by the military and much more by civilians. Although some norms are welcomed by almost everyone, for example, the possibility to retire from the Armed Forces after three years of service. Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets believes that certain points of the project violate the Constitution, and the Office of the President and the "Servants of the People" faction refuse to comment on the document at all, saying that mobilization is the responsibility of the General Staff. Because of this, on December 26, Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi gave the first press conference during the full-scale war. Babel correspondent and lawyer Oksana Kovalenko read the project and spoke with two of its developers, who agreed to communicate on the condition of anonymity. Together, they explain everything you didnʼt understand or (maybe) misunderstood.

Who actually prepared the draft law?

An interdepartmental group of representatives of the Ministry of Defense, the General Staff, intelligence and other military departments, the MPs from the Committee on National Security and Defense, international experts and public organizations. It was rewritten many times — there were 27 versions in total. The Defense Minister Rustem Umerov submitted the final version to the parliament. The authorities do not disclose the names of the developers, they agreed to communicate with us only on the condition of anonymity.

Problems with communication

The working group that worked on the draft law did not discuss the question of how to communicate the final document. The only official comment on its publication was made by the Defense Minister Rustem Umerov in an interview with “Suspilne”, but without specifics. He only explained that such a law is necessary.

The deputy head of the committee on national security Maryana Bezuhla, who was part of the group of authors, started writing about the project on her Facebook on the night of December 25. There were at least three posts — mostly about her proposals, which were not included in the project, and traditionally about criticism of Zaluzhnyi.

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi speaks at a press conference on December 26, 2023 in Kyiv.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

When the draft law became public, MPs of the presidential faction refused to talk about it and forwarded all questions to the General Staff. In the Telegram channel "Vertikal" — close to the Presidentʼs Office — several posts appeared with requests to the military to clarify contradictory and unclear regulations.

On December 26, at his first press conference, Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi did this and immediately reminded that the Armed Forces do not write or introduce laws. According to Babel, the decision to hold a press conference was made spontaneously in the company of Zaluzhnyi.

What the draft law changes for the military?

For the first time since the start of a full-scale war, the project gives military personnel the opportunity to be released from service at their own will. The only condition is 36 months of continuous service during martial law. After that, a person cannot be mobilized again for two years. Those who decide to continue their service after 36 months of service in the Armed Forces will sign a new contract every 6 months.

Zaluzhnyi noted that this idea will work only if there is no escalation at the front. And also if the mobilization is successful and there will be someone to replace people. Mobilization under the new law should begin in 2024, and the demobilization of those currently serving in 2025, when three years of service of the first volunteers of the Great War will have passed.

People who have been released from captivity have the right not to serve again. But they can do it at will after 90 days of rest.

Ukrainian military forces fire from the Archer artillery system at Russian positions in the Donetsk region on December 16, 2023.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

The project is about basic military service

According to the plan of the authors of the project, basic military service should replace term service.

The point of the innovation is that all citizens aged 18 to 25 must serve 5 months: 3 months of general education and another 2 months of professional training. In peaceful life, you can choose when exactly to take this course. During martial law, there is no such option — the date of basic service will be determined by the president. After 5 months of training, a person is accepted for military registration. Without the basic service, it will not be possible to get certain positions in the future — in the Prosecutorʼs Office, SAP and the National Police.

At first, according to the plan of the authors of the project, all adult citizens, regardless of gender, were to undergo basic service. But after the presidentʼs press conference, where he stated that he would never support the mobilization of women, urgent amendments were made to the project. According to two Babel sources, now this rule applies only to men.

Who will be mobilized:

  • conscripts and reservists from 25 to 60 years of age;
  • people with combat experience, for example in the ATO [anti-terrorist operation], who refused to enroll in the reserve, should come to training centers;
  • those who served, but after demobilization remained in the reserve and passed reservist meetings, come directly to their units;
  • those who have not served have 60 days from the date of mobilization to clarify their credentials at TRC or administrative service centers. Or through the electronic office of a conscript — what this is and how it will work must be decided by the Cabinet of Ministers. After that, various bodies will consider the reasons for the postponement, then the military medical commission must determine whether a person can serve. If so, a second summons is issued, with which you must come to the TRC.

A soldier of the 57th brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine fires a LAW during military exercises at a firing range in an undisclosed location behind the front line on September 21, 2023.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

So what, is everyone will be mobilized?

The General Staff assures that it is not. The draft law contains a list of those who have the right to deferment on general grounds. In addition, employees of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and the State Security Office, employees of the military administration and defense will have a postponement. It is not possible to mobilize students, graduate students, doctoral students, teachers of colleges and schools, employees of universities, technical schools and scientific institutions who have an academic title or a scientific degree.

For the first time, this draft law allows the mobilization of police officers and prosecutors.

There will be no postponement for former MPs and ex-MPs of various levels, employees of the Bureau of Economic Security (BES) and the State Executive Service (SES).

In addition, the project reduces the number of civil servants who have reservations from the draft. Only civil servants of category "A"; and 50% of civil servants of categories "B" and "C" are not subject to mobilization. Armor is removed from former intelligence officers who were in service before 2012.

The project cancels the "limited fit" category

All those who previously received this status, that is, could serve, but could not perform a certain job due to health conditions, will have to undergo a medical examination again, which will declare them either fit or unfit for service.

All those who will be registered for military service on the basis of a summons must also undergo a medical examination. It is not yet known how the medical commission will evaluate diseases and physical condition, this will be determined by the new version of the order of the Ministry of Defense No. 402. According to Babel, they are currently working on it.

Units of the Territorial Defense Forces of Kyiv train in the forest on January 22, 2022 in Kyiv.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

Will it be possible to mobilize to specific units?

Reservists who are already assigned to it and contract volunteers will be able to serve in a specific unit. The mobilized will not be able to choose anything — they will be distributed at the discretion of the command.

What should those who are currently abroad do?

The draft law provides that during martial law conscripts abroad must also be registered at Ukrainian consulates and embassies. If they do not do this, the embassies and consulates will not provide them with any services. In particular, national or foreign passports will not be reissued for citizens without military documents. However, Ukrainians who received temporary protection in European countries already have local documents and do not use internal passports of Ukraine.

And what will happen if you do not register (or do not appear) when called?

In such cases, TRC managers will enter violators in the Register of Debtors. However, it is not clear from the draft law on what grounds this will be done. Violators are then subject to the following restrictions:

  • prohibition to travel abroad;
  • prohibition to carry out operations with movable and immovable property;
  • prohibition to drive oneʼs own car and obtain a driverʼs license;
  • restriction of the right to use and dispose of funds and other valuables;
  • prohibition to receive credit or loan;
  • suspension of benefits and services from the state.

The head of the TRC will have to remove these restrictions as soon as the person fulfills the conditions of mobilization.

Zaluzhnyi says that all these restrictions are not the initiative of the General Staff. According to Babel, they were initiated by the Ministry of Defense. Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets has already criticized the innovations and called them illegal.

"This is a direct provision of the Constitution: a person cannot be limited in his rights. If a person officially owns, for example, a house, we cannot legally prohibit him from selling this house or buying another one."

On December 28, Lubinets reported that a compromise was reached at a meeting with the Ministry of Defense regarding controversial points and restrictions, but he did not specify what exactly it was about.

The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Dmytro Lubinets gives an interview on March 24, 2023 in Kyiv.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

Financial expert Serhiy Fursa believes that the National Bank of Ukraine will not allow the application of such restrictions, because they will lead to "big financial problems". According to Fursa, such regulations mean that before the law comes into force, people will start withdrawing funds en masse from banks or transferring property to other people. According to Babel, experts did not calculate possible economic losses during the preparation of the project.

How will evaders be punished?

This is stated in another draft law, which was also submitted to the parliament. The police will have the right to detain and deliver evaders to the TRC. This will be considered an administrative offense. In peacetime, the fine will be from 34 000 to 85 000 hryvnias, in a special period — from 153 000 to 204 000.

If a person evades medical examination and mobilization during martial law, it will be considered a crime and punished with 3-5 years of imprisonment.

Victory requires difficult decisions, which we will always write about.

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