ua en ru

Draft dodgers vs. recruitment centers: Mobilization in Ukraine and what needs to be changed

Draft dodgers vs. recruitment centers: Mobilization in Ukraine and what needs to be changed The queue of military personnel for medical examination (Photo: Getty Images)

Mobilization in Ukraine has been ongoing for almost two years now. While in the first months of a full-scale invasion, many volunteered, today more often people are going to military recruitment centers upon draft notices. How the Territorial Centers of Recruitment and Social Support work, whether they have the right to detain men on the streets, and what needs to be changed in the article by RBC-Ukraine.

This week, the Parliament begins consideration of a new bill on mobilization aimed at standardizing the rules of military registration and sanctions for those who evade it. This is already the second attempt by MPs to address the issue of mobilization after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy publicly announced an additional request from the General Staff for 500,000 recruits. Regardless of the numbers agreed upon by politicians and the military, the fact remains – soldiers at the front need to be replaced, just as losses need to be replenished.

Mobilization in Ukraine began immediately after the full-scale Russian invasion. By the summer of 2022, official sources claimed that about 700,000 people were fighting on the front lines. At that time, in the first months of the major war, many people volunteered – queues at military enlistment offices became regular and surprised few.

Today, toward the end of the second year of the war, the number of volunteers has decreased – indicating a general weariness among Ukrainians and uncertainty about the duration of military operations. General sentiments have intensified due to corruption scandals involving military enlistment offices.

In response to the backlash, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in August 2023 signed an order dismissing all heads of regional recruitment centers. Sources in military structures mentioned to RBC-Ukraine that this decision, though seemingly straightforward and popular, actually brought more problems than results. Many former heads of regional recruitment centers were well-versed in their work, having been part of the system for many years. The new leaders are forced to learn literally in combat conditions, although there is no time for it. This was also noted by Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi, who referred to the former heads of recruitment centers. as professionals.

Moreover, the issue of mobilizing an additional 500,000 people, as announced by the president, has become one of the stumbling blocks between the government and the military, or rather between Zelenskyi and Zaluzhnyi. The military wing rightfully points out the need to replace fighters on the front lines, while the government equally rightfully argues that this issue should have been addressed two years ago.

Suspended dodger

On December 11, 2023, the Krynychky District Court of Dnipropetrovsk region considered the case of a man accused of evading military service. "Born in the village of Krynychky, previously not convicted, unmarried, no minor children, not employed," the verdict text stated.

According to the storyline, the man received a draft notice and underwent a military medical examination, which found him fit for service. However, he did not show up at the designated place following the "combat" notice. In court, this was construed as evasion of military service, and he was sentenced to three years in prison, but immediately released on probation for two years.

Such suspended sentences are numerous in the Registry of Court Decisions. There are even more "technical documents" where cases are halted due to the defendant's call-up for military service. In one of the verdicts, they speak of an official being tried for embezzlement on an especially large scale, but then the case is suspended due to the defendant's call-up to the army.

Overall, according to the National Police's response to RBC-Ukraine's inquiry, law enforcement has opened 9,620 cases under the article on evasion of mobilization. The most cases are in Zakarpattia (1,053) and Dnipropetrovsk (934) regions. Nearly 2,500 cases are under consideration in courts, and 4,500 have been closed.

Such inconsistent judicial practice indicates that Ukraine still does not fully understand what to do with dodgers. Ukrainian legislation does not include the concept of a "dodger," as noted by the leading legal consultant of Nota Group, Anton Marynych.

"This is informal terminology, it is not legal, to characterize a person's actions. It's just like calling a thief a thief when it comes to theft, or a scammer when it comes to fraud. But there is no procedural status for that," Marynych explains in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

A conscript can be considered a dodger if a criminal case has been initiated against them, and the criminal case is initiated when they ignore the "combat" notice. Usually, the first notice is given so that the person goes to the Territorial Centers of Recruitment and Social Support and clarifies their details. They may then be sent for a military medical examination, and only if the doctors decide that the conscript is fit, they may be given a "combat" notice for immediate military service. Until all these actions are taken by the conscript who does not go to the recruitment center on their own, they cannot be called a dodger.

There are quite a few nuances regarding the delivery of notices as well. For several months, Ukrainians have been witnessing how recruitment center employees periodically aggressively detain conscripts and take them to recruitment centers. According to a lawyer, they have no right to do this.

"Ухилянти" проти ТЦК. Як в Україні відбувається мобілізація і що в ній потрібно змінити

Territorial Centers of Recruitment and Social Support (Photo: Getty Images)

"No authority is granted to the recruitment center for detention. They have their procedure if a person fails to appear upon notice. They can inform the National Police, that they have an approved notification form, and then the National Police can bring this person to a recruitment center for protocol drafting. This is a notice of absence. Therefore, all forced detentions are illegal," Marynych noted.

At the same time, detention is only possible if the conscript does not appear at the recruitment center even after receiving a "combat" notice. If they ignore the first few notices and this was noted at the recruitment center, they face a fine for administrative offense. Typically, this concerns the first three notices, but in practice, cases vary.

"Everything needs to be proven. Men don't stand under the recruitment center waiting for the next delivery; no one knows. Maybe someone is hiding, someone left, maybe there are grounds for deferment and this data just needs to be updated. There are no specific actions; it all depends on the will of a recruitment center. If they see that there is criminal liability, then yes. Recently, such a situation was voiced - a person came to the recruitment center 14 times, missed twice, and was brought to criminal responsibility," Marynych added.

Notice on smartphone

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that conscripts cannot be "caught" on the streets. Such a forceful method only hinders various mobilization measures and discredits the essence of mobilization itself, said a member of the relevant committee in the Verkhovna Rada, Yehor Cherniev, in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

"The terror of the recruitment centers on the streets has discredited the idea of mobilization, lowered the moral spirit of society, and undermined unity in the state. This should be stopped as soon as possible, but we need real and effective alternatives. We are currently working on this issue," the MP noted.

One of the effective alternatives lawmakers consider is the so-called e-notices. At least, this option is being discussed today in the process of preparing a bill on mobilization. On the one hand, this initiative undermines attempts by recruitment center staff to conduct street raids. On the other hand, it will be quite difficult to refute the fact of receiving the notice.

"Society does not want this, but everything is moving in that direction (notices in electronic cabinets - ed.). I believe that if they decide not to make notices through electronic channels, it will be a bigger political decision. On the other hand, nothing prevents the legislator from doing this," the lawyer notes.

A similar practice is not new. In Poland, conscripts will also receive notices through an electronic cabinet. Moreover, this method allows preempting the enemy, notes the head of the relevant committee, Oleksandr Zavitnevich.

"Ухилянти" проти ТЦК. Як в Україні відбувається мобілізація і що в ній потрібно змінити

Recruitment center (Photo: Getty Images)

"The calculations show that other options for delivering draft notices do not allow for preempting the enemy in response time, thus creating conditions for the enemy to gain control over the situation with corresponding consequences. However, I do not exclude that during the discussion of this issue in the Committee or the Verkhovna Rada, other effective options for delivering notices may be presented," Zavitnevych noted in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

At the same time, the MP talks about the fact that the electronic cabinet will work not only for delivering notices and should not be perceived exclusively in this context. Essentially, the interface will gather all the information for accounting for military personnel. Lawyers, on the other hand, propose another alternative option - to use the capabilities of Administrative Service Centers for data accounting. And the delivery of the "combat" draft notices should be left to the recruitment centers.

In the issue of mobilization, the problem lies not only in the fear for one's life but also in the fact that the conscript does not know what awaits him after receiving the draft notice. Where he will be sent, whether his skills will be taken into account, how much training will be provided, whether he will be provided with everything necessary - lawmakers so far cannot give a clear answer to all these questions.


"There are clients who want to mobilize, but unfortunately, they don't understand where they will end up. There are cases where mobilization happens without considering the professional qualities of the individual, where they could be useful. There are problems with this, but I think they will be resolved in our country," says a lawyer.

The modern Ukrainian army differs in many ways from the Soviet one and actively tries to meet NATO standards. However, there are still remnants of the USSR within it. One of them is uncertainty in the algorithm of actions. Mobilized individuals tell different stories - some are kept in training units for several months, while others are sent to the front within weeks.

"People from the recruitment centers came out and greeted me. They say, 'Are you registered? I say, 'No.' 'Okay, come, stand up.' And I went. Three weeks later, I was already in the army," said a soldier from the 118th Separate Mechanized Brigade.

According to the law, conscripts have the opportunity to join the military unit and serve in the sphere where they can be useful to the army. To do this, they submit a petition to a particular unit. The unit, in turn, submits its petition and sends it to the recruitment сenter. However, the problem is that recruitment сenters do not always adhere to these requests.

Military medical commissions also have to consider the capabilities of conscripts, mostly physical. "There are several reasons why a man may not be sent, for example, to infantry or an assault brigade. And the Medical Commission must indicate restrictions in its conclusion, where he is prohibited from performing military service. He may be conditionally fit, and this person is prohibited from serving in assault forces; he must have another position," noted Marynych.

In reality, there are many problems in this matter, which led to inspections in the Military Medical Commissions in October 2023. Whether things have improved after them, whether the corrupt component has been eliminated, or whether the mechanisms have been simplified, is a complex question.

MPs claim that they are currently working on making the conscription algorithm as transparent and comfortable as possible, as far as it is possible. Zavitnevych says that one solution to the problem is an electronic cabinet. Thanks to having all the information about a potential soldier in one place, it will be easier to choose a specialty, and the man will have time to settle his affairs.

Another way to align the needs of the army with the capabilities of conscripts is recruiting. According to lawmakers, brigades should have the opportunity to replenish their ranks selectively.

"In addition, I support the idea that every citizen should be able to choose the unit and specialty himself. We must approach this issue wisely and make the most rational use of the talents of our people," said Yehor Cherniev.

Moreover, the MP believes that volunteer units could be created within the structure of the Ministry of Defense, which would work "without bureaucracy, without military ranks, without 'Sovietization'".


Ukraine was able to repel the invasion of Russian occupiers and mobilize its resources in a short time. However, the war has dragged on, and those who volunteered in February 2022 now need rest. The speed and quality of passing a bill on mobilization in the Parliament will determine when many Ukrainian soldiers will return home.