Ukraine is putting pressure on fighting-age men outside the country as it tries to replenish forces

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Even as Ukraine works to get much-needed arms from a huge U.S. aid package to the front line, its government is seeking to reverse the drain of its potential soldiers, announcing that men of conscription age will no longer be able to renew passports from outside Ukraine.

The Cabinet of Ministers said late Wednesday that men between 18 and 60 years old who are deemed fit for military service will only be able to replace their passports inside Ukraine.

Millions of Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, mostly to neighboring European countries. The European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, says 4.3 million Ukrainians are living in EU countries, 860,000 of them men 18 years of age or older.

The defense minister of Poland, home to one of the biggest Ukrainian diasporas, said the country was ready to help “in ensuring that those who are subject to compulsory military service go to Ukraine,” though he did not specify how.

Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz said “Ukrainian citizens have obligations towards the state.”

The move has met with some criticism inside Ukraine. Opposition lawmaker Ivanna Klympush-Tsyntsadze, who heads the Parliamentary Committee for Ukraine’s European Integration, said denying military-age men access to consular services could lead to “well-founded” legal challenges at the European Court of Human Rights.

“I think that these actions will only push an enormous number of Ukrainians to look for different ways to obtain citizenship from other countries,” she said.

Russia’s population of almost 150 million dwarfs Ukraine’s 38 million, and Moscow can draw on a much bigger army. Earlier this month, Ukraine lowered the conscription age from 27 to 25 in an effort to bolster the size of its military.

Oleksandr Pavlichenko, executive director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, said the measure was a violation of individual rights — and also unlikely to succeed in getting Ukrainian men to return home from abroad.

“It’s just an emotional step, not a legal one," he said. “It will not bring the results.”

Ukraine is in need of fresh troops to bolster forces in the south and east, where Russia is pressing forward with its efforts to take ground from outnumbered and outgunned troops.

The U.S. is sending $61 billion in new U.S. military aid, a lifeline for Kyiv’s armed forces in their more than two-year war with Russia. President Joe Biden signed into law the aid package on Wednesday.

U.S. officials also confirmed Wednesday that the United States last month secretly sent Ukraine a number of long-range missiles that Kyiv has urgently sought so that its forces can hit Russian forces well behind the front lines. Ukraine used them for the first time last week to strike an airfield in occupied Crimea, the officials said.

The Army Tactical Missile Systems, known as ATACMs, have a range of some 300 kilometers (190 miles). More are expected to be sent to Ukraine as part of the new U.S. aid package.

Russia was dismissive of the weapons' likely impact.

“This will not fundamentally change the outcome of the special military operation. We will succeed. But it will cause more problems for Ukraine itself,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said “the key now is speed” in getting the supplies into place. Ukrainian forces have run desperately short of artillery ammunition and air defense missiles during six months in which the U.S. aid was held up by wrangling in Congress. That has allowed the Kremlin’s forces to inch forward in parts of eastern Ukraine in what has largely become a war of attrition.

Ukraine’s general staff said Thursday that the situation at the front remained “difficult.” Fierce fighting continues around the town of Chasiv Yar, gateway to Ukraine’s defensive backbone in the Donetsk region.

Ukrainian forces defending Chasiv Yar are under intense pressure from Russian forces launching ground assaults, aerial bombardment and “round-the-clock artillery fire," but they say that Moscow’s forces have not entered the key eastern town.

“The defense line around Chasiv Yar is very dynamic, we can say that everything is on fire," said Serhii Osachuk, a colonel with Ukraine’s State Border Guards Service.

“The new package of assistance from the United States ... primarily gives us additional strength of mind and the power to hold on," he added.

Elsewhere, six people were injured in the Cherkasy region of central Ukraine on Thursday after a “high speed target” struck a critical infrastructure object, Regional Gov. Ihor Taburets said on social media. He said a rescue operation was underway.

Russian forces also targeted infrastructure in northern Ukraine, launching a guided aerial bomb on the city of Sumy. The Regional Military Administration said emergency services were responding to the attack and the impact of the strike was still being clarified.

In the eastern Kharkiv region, an attack near a railway station injured seven people, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov, said on Telegram.


Associated Press writers Susie Blann in Kyiv; Alex Babenko in Kramatorsk, Ukraine; Vanessa Gera in Warsaw and Emma Burrows in London contributed to this story.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at