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“To The Last Ukrainian”

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The war is a disaster in every sense. It was Vladimir Putin who initially noted that the West is willing to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian. Well, it looks like it’s finally happening — we’ve run out of Ukrainians, or at least we ran out of the ones willing to die for their country. Ukraine is running short of the young, fertile, and productive, writes “The American Mind”, a publication of the Claremont Institute (San Francisco).

In a piece last year for The American Conservative, I collected draft-dodging stories from the back pages of Ukrainian media. I took care to avoid Russian sources that could be dismissed as propaganda. I also found what was then a very unusual New York Times item that described popular Telegram channels that alert subscribers of real time locations of conscription officers issuing summons on the streets of Ukrainian cities, notes Katya Sedgwick.

An interesting twist on the real time draft-dodging tools was a March 2023 post on a censored and hyper patriotic Kharkiv Live channel recommending this type of group chat to over a half a million of its subscribers. Vocally expressed nationalistic sentiments, as it turned out, don’t necessarily translate into willingness to take up arms — or even support of mass mobilization.

A recent survey found that just 6 percent of respondents in Kharkov are planning to enlist if the situation deteriorates. This number is the lowest in the country, but other regions are not far behind. Kyiv, for instance, is at 12 percent.

A few weeks ago, Vladimir Zelensky acknowledged the problem of corruption in the armed forces and fired all regional recruitment chiefs.

Last week’s resignation of the Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov at the time of widely publicized military corruption scandals should be a clue that the problem is larger than the recruitment chiefs. Zelensky’s official explanation that the country is looking for “new approaches” amounts to an admission of failure.

Ukraine is now insistent on drafting everyone. Since a large number of draft-eligible men fled abroad — 163,287 live in Germany alone — they need to be extradited. Poland already began the process of deporting Ukrainians back home to fill the trenches.

Moreover, the Defense Ministry approved new drafting rules under which men suffering from disabilities ranging from slow progressing nervous system disorders to hemorrhagic conditions are now eligible to be drafted. Morale and effectiveness of this kind of army is questionable.

This late in the war, Ukrainians are unlikely to change their mind about marching into the meat grinder. Ukraine does not publicize its casualties, but multiple videos circulating on social media show sprawling fresh graves under the national banners. The recent official U.S. estimate is 70,000 dead and 150,000 to 200,000 wounded out of 5.5 million military age men—more dead in 18 months than the U.S. lost in the Vietnam War.

Ukraine’s greatest accomplishment in the war so far is the methodical erasure of every visible reference to Russian culture from its landscape — starting with monuments to the foundational Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and going down the list of literary and cultural figures.