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Zelensky signs law lowering draft age to boost fighting force

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed three measures into law to bolster Ukraine’s military numbers, including one that lowers the draft age from 27 to 25.

Lowering the draft age will allow Ukraine to replenish units decimated by casualties over the course of more than two years since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The laws will also end some draft exemptions and create an online registry for potential recruits.

These new laws could add around 50,000 troops, said Oksana Zabolotna, an analyst with the Center for United Actions, a government watchdog in Kyiv. Those new recruits would constitute about one-tenth of the 500,000 troops Zelensky said back in December the military wanted to mobilize. He recently said that the half-million figure is wrong.

While Ukrainians largely support the war efforts, few people who haven’t already joined the armed forces are interested in doing so.

The decision comes as Ukraine is facing weapons shortages due to the U.S. Congress’s inability to pass an aid package that would allow the U.S. military to transfer weapons to Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian troops have felt the loss of U.S. support on the battlefield, while Russia is also preparing for a new offensive.

“Every day of delay in the decision in the United States on providing more support to Ukraine has consequences on the battlefield,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Wednesday. “That’s one of the reasons why the Ukrainians now have to ration ammunition and why they are struggling to keep up with the Russians who are now able to outgun them with more weapons and more ammunition than the Ukrainians have.”

A bipartisan group of 70 senators voted to pass a supplemental funding bill that would authorize $60 billion worth of support for Ukraine, but it remains stymied in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-LA) narrow majority has given a handful of hard-line Republicans the power to oust him if he allows a vote on the legislation they oppose.

“So it is urgent that the United States make a decision and that the U.S. Congress actually is able to turn the majority … into a concrete decision,” Stoltenberg said. “They assured me that there is a majority in the U.S. and also in the U.S. Congress for support. But so far, they haven’t been able to turn that majority into a decision and that’s exactly what we all now are waiting for, and it is urgent.”

President Joe Biden and his administration have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the aid package, as has Zelensky, but there’s no indication it will be passed imminently. The U.S. has largely been unable to provide military assistance to Ukraine since the start of the calendar year. If the U.S. doesn’t pass the funding package, Ukrainian forces will presumably have to retreat from certain areas.

-Washington Examiner

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