Ukrainian President Signs Law to Drop Conscription Age to 25

(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a bill to lower the age of wartime conscription to 25 after postponing the legislation as Kyiv’s forces struggle to hold off a Russian offensive.

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The law drops the draft age from 27, according to parliament’s website. The parliament in Kyiv had approved the legislation in May, 2023, after which it sat on Zelenskiy’s desk for months as the public debate over conscription unfolded.

The legislation had become a source of contention between Zelenskiy and his generals — and was part of the backdrop of the president’s decision to dismiss his popular top general, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, in February.

Even as the military sought to replenish its depleted ranks, Zelenskiy kept the unpopular draft legislation on hold, demanding a more comprehensive mobilization plan.

Zelenskiy’s decision to sign coincided with a fresh Russian assault across the front line, with Ukrainian forces running low on ammunition and manpower and struggling to hold off the invading force.

Lawmakers had fought over the draft legislation, given the political risk of making conscription rules too stringent. A separate bill on mobilization and military service is still languishing in parliament between a first and second reading, with some 4,000 proposed amendments. Zelenskiy has warned of a possible new Russian military offensive in May or June.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told Bloomberg last month that an initial military request to draft as many as 500,000 troops wasn’t necessary because of rotations on the front line and fresh weaponry. Army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi, who succeeded Zaluzhnyi, made similar remarks over the weekend.

--With assistance from Olesia Safronova.

(Updates with conscription legislation, mobilization bill, from 3rd paragraph.)

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