R USLAN KUBAY was surprised to receive a draft notice in late January. Registered as seriously disabled since childhood—Mr Kubay is missing both hands—he falls under a list of automatic exemptions from service. Even more surprising, however, was the reaction of officials at the local registration office in Drohobych, near Lviv. Far from admitting their error, they doubled down and declared him fit for service. Only a social-media post and a subsequent national scandal reversed the decision.
Mr Kubay’s case was an extreme, but far from isolated, incident. Ukraine has visibly stepped up mobilisation activities in the first two months of this year. There have been reports of draft notices issued (and sometimes violently enforced) at military funerals in Lviv, checkpoints in Kharkiv, shopping centres in Kyiv and on street corners in Odessa. Popular ski resorts lie deserted despite the first proper snows of the winter: footage of military officials snooping around on the slopes was enough to keep the crowds away. In every town and city across the country social-media channels share information about where recruitment officers may be lurking.
Mobilisation has been going on since the beginning of the war. By contrast with Russia, the process is not hidden: in February President Volodymyr Zelensky extended martial law and general-mobilisation legislation for the sixth time. But there have been big changes since December. Previously only members of Ukraine’s draft commission were allowed to issue notices, and only to home addresses. Now a wider group of officials can issue the two-part document, with no geographical limitation. Another difference is over who is being called up. In the first wave most of the recruits were voluntary; queues outside draft offices were a frequent sight. Now officials are recruiting from a much less enthusiastic crowd.