Ukraine diaspora feels 'disregarded' as military service moratorium affects tens of thousands

From May 18, Ukrainian men living abroad will not be able to access key services such as passports and driving licences unless they update their details in conscription centres.

Last month, crowds of men rushed to collect their documents at Ukrainian consulates across Poland before the deadline.

Ukraine's need to supply the army with new soldiers may be justified, but Ukrainians living abroad say they were not consulted.

"The diaspora for years has felt disregarded and even treated with contempt by the Ukrainian authorities," said Olena Babakova, a Ukraine migration expert in Poland.

Kyrylo, an IT specialist in Poland, is among those who support Ukraine from across the border.

He donates and buys Starlink satellite internet kits in Europe for volunteers back in Ukraine.

He feels joining the army would not help the war effort.

"If the army could guarantee that my work would be aligned with my skills and knowledge, I would go back," he said.

"I could help with drones and other technology. But getting a rifle and shooting would not be the most efficient way of utilising my skills," the 35-year-old added.

Anton, a waiter aged 19, left Ukraine after the war began.

He lives in Poland with his father and brother, all of whom would likely be sent to fight if they remained in Ukraine.

He supports individual battalions in Ukraine with donations every month, he said, but "I don't want to fight, as I don't trust our government".

"They don't care about people", he added, referring to the Ukrainian authorities. "And they don't care if there's a war going on, they're corrupt and keep stealing the money that we pay for the army. Why go to war for a state who only wants to steal?"

According to Eurostat data, approximately 650,000 refugee men of conscription age have been living in the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, or Liechtenstein since the beginning of the invasion.

It is unclear how many of them left Ukraine legally and how many paid bribes.

This number does not include men who left before the war.

A BBC investigation reported that 20,000 men had dodged the draft by fleeing "illegally" into neighbouring countries.

Exceptions to the new law include men with disabilities, fathers of three or more children under the age of 18, and single fathers, conditions which do not apply to most of the tens of thousands of Ukrainian men who have been living abroad since the beginning of the war.

Lyudmila, who lives in the Ukrainian capital, rejected the government's decision.

"These imbeciles are doing everything they can so that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians will not return home," she said.

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