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Families of Ukrainian soldiers rally for clear demobilization terms in Kyiv

Among the slogans on the placards were, “Mr. President, it’s time to thank the military by setting fair service terms,” “Volunteered once, enlisted for life,” “A day at war does not equal a day in civilian life.”
27 April 2024, Kyiv, protest for the demobilisation and rotation of Ukrainian servicemen. Photo by Suspilne/ Nikita Halka
Families of Ukrainian soldiers rally for clear demobilization terms in Kyiv

In Kyiv, on Saturday, on the morning of 27 April 2024, the city’s Independence Square was the setting for a poignant demonstration as families of military servicemen convened to demand demobilization and definitive terms of service.

The rally, covered by journalists from Suspilne, saw roughly a hundred participants, mostly wives of the defenders, who traveled from various regions across Ukraine. The demonstration highlighted the urgent need for clear service limits, arguing that the absence of such terms severely impacts both mobilization efforts and the morale of soldiers at the forefront of Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression.

Among the slogans on the placards were notably, “A day at war does not equal a day in civilian life,” “Mr. President, it’s time to thank the military by setting fair service terms,” “Volunteered once, enlisted for life,” and “Without clear terms of service, there are demotivated soldiers.”

Previously, the Ukrainian Parliament approved a mobilization bill in its second reading, omitting the clause about military demobilization, which was initially one of the main issues in the bill. The removal was initiated by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Oleksandr Syrskyi, and supported by Defense Minister Rustem Umerov. While aiming to bolster the country’s defense, many from the military and civil society believe that the long-awaited law betrays frontline soldiers by omitting key provisions for troop rotation and demobilization.

The new mobilization law has been criticized for still allowing many ways to evade mobilization, which prevents fair conscription. Thus, in situations where there are draft-age individuals who could replace current soldiers, their rotation and mobilization are not being properly executed.

During this emotionally charged event, voices were raised not just in protest but in solemn solidarity, seeking to influence governmental policy. A key speaker, Parliament member Inna Sovsun whose husband also volunteered to serve in Ukraine’s armed forces when full-on Russia’s invasion started, addressed the crowd, emphasizing the crucial role these military personnel played in the early days of the war and the nation’s ongoing security needs. She reassured the attendees of her commitment to ensuring their calls for fair treatment and recognition are heard at the highest levels of government.

“Those who serve are very limited in their ability to express their opinions, but this does not mean they are without protection. It means that we must be the ones to protect them,” said the deputy.

This demonstration marks a significant moment in Ukraine’s civil-military relations. The push for demobilization, supported by a petition that has garnered over 18,000 signatures, reflects a broader call for dignity and respect for those who serve.

One of the protesters, Anna, came from Dnipro to Kyiv to join the rally advocating for definitive service terms for military defenders. This rally, she said, is part of a series of nationwide protests, marking the tenth such event. Previously, protests occurred locally, but now participants from across Ukraine have gathered in the capital to press the government for quick action. Anna reports that the soldiers are weary, disheartened, and depleted.

Member of Parliament Roman Lozynsky commented on the law on the day of the adoption of the amendments:

“They removed a key provision for my fellow soldiers. Those who volunteered to go to the front in the first days. A provision that brought some clarity and terms for the right to demobilize. And this injustice, against the backdrop of the president’s self-removal, becomes even stronger.

It’s unfair that a few hundred thousand civilians who care about this country and were forced to become soldiers are stopping the enemy.

The issue of demobilization is expected to be addressed in a separate bill. In April, the Ministry of Defense assured that the demobilization bill was in progress and anticipated to reach Parliament in the coming months.


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