Volodymyr Zelensky presented a challenging choice: Do You Want To Be a Refugee Or a Citizen?

Written by Henrik Rothen

Jan.01 - 2024 9:55 AM CET

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'Do You Want To Be A Refugee Or A Citizen?'

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In his New Year's address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky presented a challenging choice to his countrymen: whether to become a refugee or to fulfill their duty to Ukraine. He reflected on the different decisions made by citizens since February 24, 2022, noting that some stayed, went to the front, fled the country, or returned after leaving.

Zelensky emphasized the dilemma facing every Ukrainian: "Who am I? Who do I want to be? A victim or a victor? A refugee or a citizen?"

Meanwhile, Ukrainian military and regional leaders have called for broader participation in defense efforts. Valeriy Zaluzhny, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, emphasized fairness in the mobilization law, and Vitaliy Kim, head of the Mykolaiv Regional Military Administration, suggested that all Ukrainians should be prepared to fight.

Former CIA analyst Larry Johnson, in an interview, controversially compared Ukrainians fleeing the country to rats abandoning the Titanic. He also mentioned that authorities try to prevent citizens from leaving by confiscating passports.

Ukrainian legislators face the challenge of ending the conflict, compared to the chaotic scenes from the film "Titanic." The difficulties with conscription have led to the front-line deployment of those who are mentally ill or elderly, between 58-68 years old, and not in peak physical condition.

Ukraine's defense minister, Rustem Umerov, spoke of an initiative to call overseas Ukrainians for military service, threatening sanctions against those who refuse to return, without specifying the nature of these sanctions.

A bill introduced to the Ukrainian Parliament aims to improve mobilization and military registration, including sending draft notices to citizens abroad and restricting their rights, like banking operations and international travel, if they fail to register for military service.

Former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun speculated that if the mobilization bill is passed, it could lead to a mass exodus from the country.

According to BBC, since the start of the mobilization, about 20,000 men have fled Ukraine, and 21,000 others attempted to leave but were detained by authorities. In September, it was reported that Poland began extraditing men of conscription age who had fled Ukraine after the start of the special operation. Estonia also expressed readiness to search for and return Ukrainian refugees for mobilization in late December.

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