Russia-Ukraine: Two years of war
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Ukraine wants you home

Ukrainian service members attend a stress control session at a military medical centre, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine November 17, 2023.

Ukrainian service members attend a stress control session at a military medical centre, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine November 17, 2023.

REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova

Ukraine’s defense minister says Kyiv is set to “invite” Ukrainian men, aged 25 to 60 and living abroad, to return home to report for military service. According to the BBC, more than 700,000 of this cohort have left Ukraine since the start of the war. The invitation will come with a threat of sanctions against those who don’t comply, though a ministry spokesman later cast doubt on that threat.


This plea may, in part, be a cry for help meant to persuade Ukraine’s Western backers to continue their support – though President Volodymyr Zelensky, who says Ukraine needs 450,000-500,000 more soldiers, has spent more time in recent weeks using pledges of victory rather than fear of defeat as the basis of his sales pitch abroad. That strategy hasn’t worked: Republicans in the US are currently blocking a $61 billion military package for Ukraine, and Hungary has blocked a $55 billion EU financial deal.

More importantly, this call underlines the reality that Ukraine is a much smaller country and will struggle to match the invader’s staying power. Though none of these numbers can be independently verified, Zelensky says there are about half a million Ukrainian troops at the front, with no promise of rotation. Russia, with a total population more than three times larger than Ukraine’s, claims about 617,000 Russian soldiers have been deployed.

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