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Media uncover hundreds of NGOs and charities involved in draft evasion scandal

A black market “service” costing up to $5,000 per person has enabled the escape of thousands of Ukrainian men, with the help of NGOs and charities.
Illustrative photo by Borys Karpusenko
Media uncover hundreds of NGOs and charities involved in draft evasion scandal

According to an investigation by NGL.media, hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and charitable foundations have been implicated in the escape of 2,248 men of conscription age who left Ukraine with permits from the Lviv Regional Military Administration and failed to return.

The investigation comes amid Ukraine’s growing scarcity of manpower at the front as a badly-needed bill on mobilization is stalled in parliament.

The draft evasion was enabled by the NGOs submitting petitions to the Lviv Regional Military Administration to issue permits for the draft evaders to be registered in Ukraine’s Shliakh system, which enables drivers of humanitarian cargo to leave Ukraine.

Martial law prohibits most men of conscription age from leaving Ukraine without special permits.

In total, 372 such organizations were identified.

“According to various estimates, such a ‘service’ costs $3,000-5,000 per person on the black market, so we are actually talking about tens of millions of dollars,” NGL.media reports.

The investigation found that two organizations operating at the same address in the city of Mykolaiv, Lviv Oblast – the local branch of the all-Ukrainian society “Prosvita” and the NGO “Theater Khlib” – were the record-holders in facilitating draft evasion. Nearly 200 men were able to escape with the help of these two organizations alone.

Letters to the Lviv Regional Military Administration on behalf of the Mykolaiv branch of “Prosvita” were written by the organization’s head, 34-year-old Nataliia Mukha, who also manages the Mykolaiv People’s Theater “Khlib.” Letters from the NGO “Theater Khlib” were written by its 22-year-old head, Roman Zbudovskyi, a participant in the “Khlib” theater, according to the media outlet. Both Mukha and Zbudovskyi ignored messages and calls from journalists.

Since Russia’s invasion, over 19,000 men have used the “Shliakh” system to flee Ukraine. Currently, there is neither administrative nor criminal liability for them, NGL.media notes.

According to a BBC investigation, nearly 20,000 men have escaped Ukraine abroad, fleeing from the draft. Another 21,113 attempted to but were stopped by the Ukrainian authorities.

According to Eurostat, 650,000 Ukrainian men of conscription age are registered as refugees in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, and Lichtenstein. However, a part of them have legal grounds for leaving Ukraine: three or more children, needing to care for disabled relatives, having a disability, etc.

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