Zelensky Lowers Draft Age to Shore Up Ukraine’s Depleted Army

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has signed into law three measures aimed at replenishing the ranks of his country’s exhausted and battered army, including lowering the age when men become eligible for conscription and eliminating some medical exemptions.

While Mr. Zelensky did not say why he had decided to move ahead on at least some changes, Russia’s forces have been on the offensive along the front line and the ongoing fighting has shrunk Ukraine’s supplies of soldiers and weapons.

Ukraine’s Parliament has for months debated a bill that covers a more sweeping overhaul of conscription, but political analysts say that calling up more men has become an issue that no politician or military leader wants to be associated with. That included Mr. Zelensky, who had delayed for nearly a year signing the bill lowering the draft age.

Ukraine’s army of about one million soldiers is fighting the largest war in Europe since World War II, waged in muddy trenches or the ruins of cities in urban combat. Casualty rates are high. Most men who wanted to volunteer for the military have already done so, and small anti-draft protests had broken out before the new laws were passed.

The new measures, which Parliament had passed last May and which Mr. Zelensky signed into law late Tuesday, lower the draft eligibility age to 25, from 27; eliminate a category of medical exemption known as “partially eligible”; and create an electronic database of men in Ukraine starting at age 17.

Military recruitment offices are authorized to begin drafting younger men on Wednesday.

Ukraine is expected, at best, to hold the existing front lines in ground fighting this year if a new influx of American weapons arrives, military analysts say, and risks falling back without it. To maximize its efforts, Ukraine plans to replenish its army through mobilization while trying to keep Russia off balance with sabotage missions behind enemy lines and long-range drone strikes, such as attacks on an oil refinery and weapons plant in Russia on Tuesday.

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