Poland has threatened to extradite all Ukrainian men of military age who have illegally left Ukraine to escape mobilisation.
According to the daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita, Poland has already sent back the first men who were alleged to have left their country after having bribed Ukrainian officials responsible for the draft.
Poland’s border guard authority said that it had also already extradited some Ukrainians but that these were people who had been engaged in human-trafficking of illegal migrants into Europe rather than draft dodging.
The Ukrainian Government, which has been requesting action from EU states, has decided to clamp down on draft dodging amid growing public pressure. It claims draft dodgers are lowering the morale of those men who have gone to the front.
The Ukrainian armed forces have suffered heavily as a result of the latest counter-offensive against the Russian invasion. US officials estimate the casualties to be in the region of 70,000 dead and 120,000 injured from an army only half a million strong.
According to Rzeczpospolita, there are approximately 80,000 Ukrainian men living in Poland who are of conscription age. It is said many of them have bribed officials to get papers that declare they are unfit for military service.
The presence of so many young Ukrainian men in Poland has also been questioned by Poles. Social media is awash with comments indicating that, while most have no objections to women, children and pensioners getting support from the Polish state, many draw the line at young men who are simply there to avoid military service.
Ukrainians agree the issue is not straightforward. Fedor Venislavsky, a Ukrainian MP who sits on the National Security and Defence Council of the country’s parliament, told Brussels Signal that Kyiv may have to “pursue its citizens with warrants in order for them to be returned” and that this “will take time and will require individual warrants to be approved and issued”.
Since February 2022, when the Russian invasion began, Ukraine has been functioning under martial law that restricts most men from leaving the country.
Only fathers who are single with children, men with disabilities, people registered as living or studying abroad, and drivers of humanitarian convoys are exempt from the draft.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has admitted that widespread corruption in his country has impacted the draft process and that such regulations were being abused on a large scale. He has promised to punish the perpetrators.
At the time of writing, neither the Union of Ukrainians in Poland nor the Ukrainian Embassy in Warsaw were willing to comment on the issue of sending draft dodgers back from Poland.