Ukraine Says Stopped Dozens at Border Amid Draft Fears

Ukrainian border guards said Friday they had caught dozens of men trying to sneak out of the country following an aggressive military conscription drive to fight invading Russian troops.

Kyiv last month introduced new divisive legislation aimed at replenishing army ranks after more than two costly years of war and Russian gains in the east.

Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 have been barred from leaving the country since the Russian invasion.

Border guards in the southern region of Odesa, which borders Moldova and Romania, said they had discovered 41 Ukrainian citizens from 12 regions trying to flee in a truck meant to transport grain.

“Administrative reports were drawn up against the violators, and as for the two defendants involved in organising the smuggling, they face criminal liability,” a statement said.

In February, border guards said they had stopped 38 Ukrainian men from illegally trying to cross into neighboring Hungary and that “smugglers” had elicited between $4,500 and $8,500 from each person.

The border guard service did not say whether the men were specifically attempting to avoid mobilization but the new efforts to bolster the army have instilled fear.

Social media has been flooded in recent weeks with amateur footage showing Ukrainian men being hauled off the street by recruitment officers and receiving a litany of abuse.

Resentment over the widening recruitment drive has been fueled by reports that some Ukrainian men have paid bribes to avoid being drafted.

Since the beginning of the war in February 2022, border authorities say they have discovered the bodies of 35 people who died trying to cross the Tysa river on Ukraine’s borders with Hungary and Romania.

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