KIEV: War-weary Ukraine is struggling to recruit soldiers to fight pro-Russian separatists in the east, with enthusiasm sapped by reports of ill-equipped troops and poor treatment of families of missing soldiers.
When fighting began in mainly Russian-speaking east Ukraine almost two years ago, patriotism soared and recruitment offices in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, were inundated with volunteers.
Now, with a year-old ceasefire barely holding and the death toll still rising, Ukraine’s military faces a battle to find replacements for about 40,000 servicemen expected to be demobilised in March.
Kiev’s last recruitment drive in August 2015 attracted little over half the 25,000 soldiers the military wanted.
While it is illegal to dodge the draft, potential recruits can do so by bribing officials or simply leaving the country.
The low numbers are no surprise to one veteran, who served in an infantry brigade between Feb 5 and Dec 4 of last year and said those risking their lives were expected to buy a lot of their own equipment.
“There’s no desire to return,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There were many things we had to buy ourselves, or volunteers donated them.”