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“Someone has to do it”

They do one of the most unpopular jobs in Ukraine: conscription officers recruit on the street. When they show up, the place empties. They show understanding for the fear. Because: “Nobody wants to die.”

Rebecca Barth

“Good day, TZK – your ID please.” Oleksandr Kraychuk and his colleagues say this sentence countless times a day. They patrol the streets of Kharkiv. They speak to men of military age. This one is 22 years old. A student. And therefore too young to be drafted into the army. Kraychuk and his colleagues wish them a nice day.

The men probably do one of the most unpopular jobs in the whole of Ukraine. They work for the country's conscription authority – known as the TZK for short. Kraytschuk shrugs his shoulders: “Of course everyone is afraid. But someone has to do it. If not us, then who?”

Understanding for the men who do not want to fight

The 27-year-old is a veteran. He was seriously injured in the war – just like his colleagues. All of them are no longer fit for duty. They risked their lives and health to defend their homeland.

Comrade Maksim Burschynskyj – a former policeman – tries to show understanding for the many men who do not want to fight: “They are probably worried that they will be deployed in the war immediately when they receive the summons. That is why they are afraid. 50 percent of those called up ask first of all: 'Will there be training so that I can learn the minimum to survive in combat?'”

The anger at the Convening authority is big

The reason for the fear of being drafted is the countless videos circulating on the Internet. They show men in uniforms brutally arresting civilians on the street and dragging them into cars.

Or women who try to protect their sons or husbands from being drafted. One video shows an elderly woman wearing a colorful headscarf. She desperately beats the car of the TZK employees with a pole. There is great anger towards the draft board. Even President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's decision to employ injured veterans in the board could not change this.

“I can understand people in some ways, nobody wants to die,” says Krajtschuk. But that's not the point. No one will die with certainty: “Everyone who is sent to the training camps is prepared, they receive training to be able to protect themselves.”

The men warn each other in chat groups

But Kraychuk's words are no longer getting through to the people on Kharkiv's streets. He and his colleagues have only been out for a few minutes – and suddenly the streets are noticeably emptier. In chat groups on Telegram, men are warning each other about the TZK patrols. And now almost only women are pushing their strollers through the parks.

Pensioners are sitting on the benches. And many of them are angry, like Yevhenyj, who was just checked. “First of all, you can see that I am 64. And secondly, they have no explanation for patrolling here and creating tension.” There is already enough tension among the population.

Volunteers fight with authorities

Switlana sees it similarly: “I have a negative attitude towards it, because there are people who volunteer. But then they run from pillar to post. They are sent from commission to commission.”

That's what happened with her brother. He volunteered – he had to deal with authorities and offices for three months before he was able to start training – that's how Switlana explains it.

According to the Ministry of Defense, around two million Ukrainians have updated their data with the authorities since the new mobilization law came into force. However, conscription into the army continues to be criticized – the system is said to be ineffective and non-transparent.

Rebecca Barth, ARD Kiev, tagesschau, 23.06.2024 23:26

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