The wives and family of enlisted Ukrainian soldiers have gathered at Independence Square in Kyiv to call for the right to voluntarily demobilise after 18 months

“Our servicemen are strong, but they are not robots,” protesters shouted during the rally.

By Payday, October 27, 2023

In the first weeks after the invasion, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Ukrainians volunteered to serve at the front, the Guardian has reported. But many of those initial recruits are now dead, wounded or simply exhausted, and the army needs new recruits to fill the ranks. However, most of those who want to fight have already signed up, leaving the military to recruit among a much more reluctant pool of men.

Fathers of more than three children, people with disabilities and those working in strategically important jobs are exempt from the draft, but everyone else is expected to join up if called. Crews of mobilisation officers roam the streets and sometimes go door to door to hand out notices. Viral videos show officers bundling men into vans to deposit them at enlistment offices.

Ukrainian men between the age of 18 and 60 are banned from leaving the country and tens of thousands are estimated to have fled, but some 20,000 have been reportedly caught while trying to leave and avoid fighting in the war with Russia.