Latest mobilisation law was amended 4,000 times before President Volodymyr ZelenskyyPresident Volodymr Zelensky signed it. (Paula Bronstein./Getty Images)


Poland and Lithuania ‘risk breaking EU law if they repatriate Ukrainian men’

Ukrainians relying on the EU's Temporary Protection Directive "have a right to access accommodation, benefits, medical care, education and employment in Poland, Lithuania and other EU countries", according to Brandi Amiss-Towler, a Lincoln's Inn scholar who has researched the issue


Legal experts have told Brussels Signal that Poland and Lithuania risk breaking both European Union and Ukrainian law if they chose to help Ukraine repatriate men between 18 and 60 for military service.

Ukrainians relying on the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive “have a right to access accommodation, benefits, medical care, education and employment in Poland, Lithuania and other EU countries”, according to Brandi Amiss-Towler, a Lincoln’s Inn scholar who has researched the issue.

“If Poland and Lithuania failed to follow the directive, allowing Ukrainian citizens the right to accommodation, benefits, and so forth, they would be in breach of EU law,” she told Brussels Signal.

Poland, which hosts some 200,000 Ukrainian men between 18 and 60, said it would not renew their right to stay, and it that it was “possible” Warsaw could transport them back to Ukraine, said Polish defence minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz on April 24.

Lithuania, where a smaller number of Ukrainian men are located, said it would look into restricting their “social benefits, work permits, documents” but ruled out deporting them, its defence minister Laurynas Kasčiūnas said on April 25.

On April 23, Ukraine suspended consular services for men aged 18-60 living abroad, making it harder for them to remain overseas.

The country’s consulate in Warsaw told BBC Ukraine that after April 24 it could not issue passports to anyone over the age of 12, whether male or female.

When Ukraine’s new mobilisation law comes into effect on May 18, the consulate will resume providing passports and consular services to men who have registered with Ukraine’s conscription offices, it said.

“Openly illegal and exceptionally harmful,” is how U​​krainian opposition MP Volodymyr Viatrovych described the Ukrainian move.

If its countrymen abroad lost access to accommodation as a result, that could be in breach of “Ukrainian citizens’ human rights and the Ukrainian constitution if, for example, they were refused a right to accommodation – which is protected under Article 47 of the Ukrainian Constitution and has not been restricted by martial law,” Amiss-Towler said.

Exemplifying just how contentious Ukraine’s latest mobilisation law has been, it was amended 4,000 times before President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed it on April 17.

Family members of the longest-serving soldiers, those who volunteered in February 2022, had hoped the law would allow those soldiers to return to their families but were left disappointed; the final law erased draft provisions permitting demobilisation after three years.

That came as Ukraine’s commander on the Eastern front said Russian troops outnumber his own by 10 to one.

Referring to Ukrainian men residing abroad, the country’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on X: “A man of conscription age went abroad, showed his State that he does not care about its survival, and then comes and wants to receive services from this state.”

Some Ukrainian men, though, point out they were living within the EU before 2022.

There has, until now, been no way for Ukrainians abroad to register with the mobilisation authorities and no legal requirement for them to do so, said Viatrovych.

It was also “unknown” if Ukrainian men will be able to register for mobilisation from overseas or how, said Ukrainian MP Olena Khomenko.

They still would not be able to undergo medical examinations abroad, as the mobilisation law currently requires, Khomenko said.

Many of the Ukrainians abroad have sought to raise money and awareness on Ukraine’s behalf, Viatrovych pointed out.

“Ukraine would not have such powerful political, financial and military support of Western countries if it were not for the activity of foreign Ukrainians,” he said.

Even more, most “will not abandon their jobs, studies, wives, children or parents to go on a one-stop trip to Ukraine right now”, he added.