Responses to Information Requests

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26 March 2018


Ukraine: Whether Ukrainian nationals who served in the Soviet Union's military could be mobilized in Ukraine (2015-March 2018)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

Sources indicate that Ukraine reinstated mandatory military service in 2014 and that Ukrainians up to the age of 60 could be called up during mobilization (Legal Hundred 15 Mar. 2018; WRI 3 Mar. 2015).

According to sources, there have been six waves of ["partial" (France and Austria Mar 2017, 28)] mobilization since 2014 (France and Austria 2017, 28), or in 2014-2015 (Legal Hundred 15 Mar. 2018). A January 2015 update to a document titled "International Protection Considerations Related to Developments in Ukraine" indicates that, in 2014, three decrees on partial mobilization were issued on 17 March, 6 May and 22 July (UN Jan. 2015, para. 19). According to a September 2015 update to the same document, three further waves of partial mobilization took place in January 2015, in April 2015 and in June 2015 (UN Sept. 2015, 13).

A July 2014 article by Liga, a Ukrainian news agency, quotes the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (NSDC)'s Secretary, Andriy Parubiy, as stating the following in 2014:

"I emphasize that during partial mobilization those who have already undergone military service are summoned to serve - reserve officers and people with military experience. And only those that have specialties that individual units need. We do not summon 18-year-old boys. Also we will not summon breadwinners from low-income families." (Liga 22 July 2014)

Similarly, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of Legal Hundred, "an NGO that supports veterans of Ukraine's Anti-Terror[ist] Operations (ATO) in understanding and protecting their rights" (EED n.d.), explained that

when the war started, the government introduced the mobilization draft. All men who have ever served in the military and had a military title (sergeant, soldier, colonel, etc.) could be mobilized to serve in the military. It did not matter whether the person served during Soviet times or in the Ukrainian military. The main criteria was whether a person had a military title or not. Anyone over 18 could be mobilized and up to the age of 60. (Legal Hundred 15 Mar. 2018)

According to a joint fact-finding mission report on Ukraine by the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides, OFPRA) and Austria's Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum (Bundesamt Für Fremdenwesen und Asyl, BFA), the Military Advisor of the EU Delegation in Ukraine stated, in an interview with OFPRA's and BFA's officials in June 2016, that "'[i]nitially they took people who were militarily skilled[,] then specialists, like tank drivers[,] artillerymen, anti-aircraft personnel, etc.; that was what they were looking for, but not infantry'" (France and Austria May 2017, 28). The same source reports that, in June 2016, representatives from Ukraine's Ministry of Defence and the military advisor of the EU Delegation in Ukraine stated that individuals aged 25 to 46 could be mobilized (France and Austria May 2017, 28).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the representative of Legal Hundred stated that the last mobilization wave was "demobilized" on 31 October 2016 and that, since then, "the Ukrainian army has been contract-based" (Legal Hundred 15 Mar. 2018). Similarly, a 2016 article by Interfax-Ukraine, a Kyiv-based news agency that belongs to the Interfax Group, a provider of "critical information on Russia, China and emerging markets of Eurasia" (Interfax Group n.d.), reports that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko "said that the sixth wave of demobilization was completed by the beginning of November [2016]" (Interfax-Ukraine 2 Nov. 2016). An April 2016 news article, also by Interfax-Ukraine, explains that a "sharp increase" in volunteers signing military service contracts made the suspension of the seventh wave of mobilization possible (Interfax-Ukraine 25 Apr. 2016). The joint OFPRA and BFA report states that according to an interview with representatives of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, "[t]ermination of the seventh call-up for partial mobilization was confirmed in June 2016" (France and Austria May 2017, 31). Information on further partial mobilizations could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

A note published by Ukraine's Ministry of Defence on 27 May 2017, and available on the Ministry of Defence's website, indicates that, in 2017, [translation] "commissioned officers" under the age of 43 who completed the "full program of military training under the reserve officer training curriculum (graduated from universities' military departments)" are subject to the call-up in 2017 provided that they have a university degree not lower than a bachelor's degree and that they were awarded the "primary officer rank" (Ukraine 27 May 2017). The same source states that officers will not be involved in the ATO in the east of Ukraine "without their personal consent and the conclusion of the corresponding contract" (Ukraine 27 May 2017).

The Legal Hundred representative further explained that, in 2017, the Ukrainian government introduced "an 18-month draft for the officers" (Legal Hundred 15 Mar. 2018). The same source stated the following:

This means that anyone who has received an officer military title (any title above sergeant) but has not served in the military is subject to be drafted to serve in the military. So for example, if the person did military studies in university where they just attended training once a week and went on a 4-week training course, they graduated with an officer title, but they would not have actually gone to the military for service. Such people are subject to the draft as of 2017. And this includes the category of men and women up to the age of 43. (Legal Hundred 15 Mar. 2018)

The Legal Hundred representative also stated the following:

Persons who have served in the [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] army were subject to mobilization, since they hold a military title. A lot of them served in the ATO. They are generally not likely to be subjected to any of the drafts. If mobilization is reintroduced they would be subjected to mobilization. (Legal Hundred 15 Mar. 2018)

Article 336 of Ukraine's 2001 Criminal Code provides that "avoidance of mobilization, - [sic] shall be punishable by imprisonment for a term two to five years [sic]" (Ukraine 2001). The September 2015 update to the UNHCR report titled "International Protection Considerations Related to Developments in Ukraine," citing the Ukrainian Law No. 3543-XII of 21 October 1993 on Mobilizational Preparedness and Mobilization, states that there is no "clear provision on alternative service arrangements for individuals drafted through emergency mobilization" (UN Sept. 2015, para. 36). The joint OFPRA and BFA report, citing Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), indicates that, in 2015, a resident of Starobilsk in the Luhansk region, who was 40 years old and who evaded a mobilization draft after having been noticed twice, was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment "in appliance of article 336 of the Criminal [C]ode" by the Starobilsk district court (France and Austria May 2017, 39). According to a 2015 article published in War Resisters' International (WRI), a "pacifist and antimilitarist network" of 90 groups in 40 countries (WRI n.d.), draft-dodgers, subject to mobilization, could be arrested at border checkpoints if they attempt to leave the country and could face five years in prison (WRI 3 Mar. 2015).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


European Endowment for Democracy (EED). N.d. "Legal Hundred." [Accessed 16 Mar. 2018]

France and Austria. May 2017. Office français de protetion des réfugiés et apatrides (OFPRA) and Bundesamt Für Fremdenwesen und Asyl (BFA). Fact Finding Mission Report Ukraine. [Accessed 22 Mar. 2018]

Interfax Group. N.d. "About Interfax." [Accessed 16 Mar. 2018]

Interfax-Ukraine. 2 November 2016. "Poroshenko Ends 6th Wave of Demobilization, Calls for Contract Soldiers." [Accessed 16 Mar. 2018]

Interfax-Ukraine. 25 April 2016. "Poroshenko Suspends Seventh Wave of Mobilization." [Accessed 16 Mar. 2018]

Legal Hundred. 15 March 2018. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

Liga [in Ukranian]. 22 July 2014. "Partial Mobilization: Why Is It Necessary and Who Should Await Summons." Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina. [Accessed 16 Mar. 2018]

Ukraine. 27 May 2017. Ministry of Defence. "Clarification Regarding Some Provisions of the Commissioned Officers' Call-up for Active Military Service in 2017." Translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada. [Accessed 15 Mar. 2018]

Ukraine. 2001 (amended 2017). Criminal Code of Ukraine. [Accessed 22 March 2018]

United Nations (UN). September 2015. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). International Protection Considerations Related to Developments in Ukraine - Update III. [Accessed 20 Mar. 2018]

United Nations (UN). January 2015. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). International Protection Considerations Related to Developments in Ukraine - Update II. [Accessed 20 Mar. 2018]

War Resisters' International (WRI). 3 March 2015. "Propaganda, Ukrainian Desertion and Conscription in Lithuania." Accessed 16 Mar. 2018]

War Resisters' International (WRI). N.d. "About War Resisters' International." [Accessed 16 Mar. 2018]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Faculty member specializing in military affairs, military history and Russian history at the University of Ottawa; Kharkiv Human Rights Group in Ukraine; Representative at the Ukrainian Centre of Policy and Legal Reform; Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.

Internet sites, including: Council of Europe;; Factiva; International Crisis Group; Ukraine – Ministry of Defence; US – Department of State.