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To win in a war of attrition, Ukraine should mobilize women, report argues

As casualties mount and draft-eligible men dwindle, a Ukrainian report is sparking debate over mobilizing women to sustain the nation’s defense against Russia’s protracted invasion, citing Britain’s auxiliary forces that freed 450,000 men in World War II.
Ukrainian women in military uniforms
Ukrainian women in female military uniforms. Photo: Ministry of Defense
To win in a war of attrition, Ukraine should mobilize women, report argues

As Ukraine’s mobilization reserves of eligible men dwindle due to exemptions for numerous groups, the country may need to turn to conscripting women in order to sustain a protracted war of attrition against Russia’s ongoing invasion, according to an in-depth report by Texty.org.ua.

Debates continue over a stalled mobilization law expected to conscript 500,000 men as frontline shortages continue to grow. However, the mobilization of women has been consistently rejected by Ukraine’s leadership.

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukraine had slightly less than 10.5 million men aged 18-59 residing in the country, excluding the occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas. However, the report estimates over 1.1 million people currently serve in Ukraine’s Defense Forces, with losses of 200,000-300,000 killed and wounded so far, Texty writes.

Additionally, around 688,000 Ukrainian men of working age have fled the country and obtained temporary protection abroad, primarily in the EU and UK. Meanwhile, around 1.84 million Ukrainian women aged 18-64 have also obtained temporary protection in the EU – 15% from the total 12.29 million.

The analysis provides a detailed breakdown of which categories of Ukrainian men have already been excluded from potential military service. It lists the following major groups as exempt:

  • 1.02 million men with disabilities
  • 125,000 caretakers for children or disabled adults
  • 123,000 fathers of multiple children
  • 408,000 full-time students whose service is deferred
  • 151,000 scientists, teachers, and university lecturers
  • 528,000 men previously reserved from service
  • 26,600 incarcerated individuals.

With such an exhaustive list of exemptions, the report estimates there are still around 4.9 million men in Ukraine who could potentially be drafted. However, it argues this mobilization reserve is becoming rapidly depleted.

In addition to the estimated 5 million men still eligible, the analysis suggests Ukraine’s mobilization reserve could grow by:

  • 3 million women aged 18-60 without children
  • 273,000 men aged 25-26 currently exempt
  • 434,000 men aged 18-24, if the minimum age is lowered.

Given the large proportion of Ukraine’s male population already ineligible, the in-depth analysis argues that conscripting women could provide a valuable additional personnel pool to help turn the tide in a grueling attritional conflict with Russia.

“If the war drags on for years or Russia significantly increases its forces, conscripting women could substantially improve the situation,” according to the text.

The article cites Britain’s example in World War II, where women’s auxiliary military branches allowed 450,000 men to serve on the frontlines:

  • The ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) initially had new female recruits serving as cooks, secretaries, telephonists, and storekeepers before expanding to roles like nurses, drivers, postal workers, and ammunition inspectors. Women aged 17-43 could join.
  • The WRNS (Women’s Royal Naval Service) worked as support personnel, including assisting in cracking German military codes.
  • The WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) handled aircraft maintenance, meteorology, radar operations, intelligence photography analysis, and food services.

“These auxiliary services freed up 450,000 men for frontline duties like weapons production, air defense, medical care, logistics, and farm work,” the report notes. “Importantly, they were separate all-female branches within the army and navy, limited to rear operations.”

Ukraine currently has over 60,000 women serving. But the report suggests actively recruiting more females into combat roles like:

  • Drone operators
  • Snipers
  • Frontline medics.

This could boost Ukraine’s military capabilities. However, any mobilization of women must remain strictly voluntary without travel restrictions, the report argues.

The detailed study highlights how Ukraine’s available mobilization pool is rapidly shrinking due to the numerous exempted groups. Tapping into the female population could provide critical additional reserves to outlast Russia, according to Texty.

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