Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that the military had proposed mobilizing an additional 450,000 to 500,000 Ukrainians into the armed forces, which would mark a dramatic intensification of Kiev’s efforts to push back Russia.
Ukraine’s leader told his end-of-year news conference that it was a “very sensitive” issue that the military and government would discuss before deciding whether to send the proposal to parliament .
Zelensky said he wanted to hear more arguments for mobilizing additional people before supporting such a move.
“It’s a very serious number,” he said.
Ukraine has been at war with Russian troops since February 2022. Both sides consider the number of casualties a state secret, but U.S. officials estimate hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and injured.
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The number of Ukrainian troops is not known, but the country has said in the past that around a million people are under arms. Russia has expanded its military during the war and announced Tuesday it plans to increase its troop strength to 1.5 million troops.
“I said I would need more arguments to support this decision. Because first it’s a question of people, then it’s a question of fairness, it’s a question of defense capacity and it’s a question of finances,” Zelensky said.
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Ukraine, which initially saw tens of thousands of volunteer fighters lining up to defend their country against the Russian invasion, is now trying to recruit more men to replace those currently on the front lines.
Discussions took place behind closed doors for weeks about how to improve the drafting process. Some Ukrainians have reacted angrily to videos on social media showing conscription officers handing out draft papers at gyms and resorts.
Zelensky said an additional 500 billion hryvnias ($13.5 billion) would be needed to support the army mobilization proposal and he wants more details on how the troops would be used to fight Russia.
There have been tensions between Zelensky and the army chief.
This week, army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi criticized Zelenskyy’s decision to fire the heads of regional military recruiting offices as part of a crackdown on corruption this summer.