Poland Ready to Help Ukraine Return Conscription-Age Men Home

(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s defense chief said the country is prepared to assist Ukraine in getting fighting-age men to return to the war-battered country after Kyiv tightened conscription rules.

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Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz cited a figure of 400,000 additional soldiers needed to press back Russia’s invasion in comments to Polsat news late Wednesday. Poland, which took in more than 1.5 million war refugees after war broke out in 2022, has an estimated 350,000 Ukrainian military-age men working in the country, according to the Rzeczpospolita newspaper.

“For a long time we’ve signaled to the Ukrainian side that we’re ready to help get those obliged to serve to return to Ukraine,” the minister said. “But it rather depends on Ukraine which type of help it needs.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy approved legislation this month to lower the conscription age to 25 from 27 and tighten rules in response to a mounting shortage of manpower on the front. The new rules restrict registration — and make it difficult for Ukrainian men abroad to renew their passports.

Kosiniak-Kamysz responded to long lines forming at the Ukrainian Embassy in Warsaw as many sought to renew their passports ahead of a deadline. Ukrainian authorities suspended issuing documents from diplomatic missions for citizens of military age this week.

“Staying abroad does not relieve a citizen of his or her duties to the Homeland,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on X on Tuesday. “That is why yesterday I ordered measures to restore fair attitudes toward men of conscription age in Ukraine and abroad. This will be fair.”

The defense chief said the prospect of Ukrainian men avoiding conscription while the government in Warsaw channels funding to Kyiv’s war had irked many Poles. He expressed sympathy for Ukrainian soldiers at the front frustrated at those who avoid service.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski earlier put the country’s assistance to Ukraine at $9 billion in the first two years of the war, a figure that doesn’t include support for refugees in the country.

In an address to parliament, Sikorski said the government would stand by Kyiv despite tension over Warsaw’s grain-import ban.

“Russian leaders and propagandists are trying to pit us against Ukrainians,” he said. “It will not succeed. They will lose on this front as well.”

--With assistance from Natalia Ojewska and Olesia Safronova.

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