The “crux of the issue” for Ukraine is that hundreds of thousands of its citizens are avoiding military service, Roderich Kiesewetter has said FILE PHOTO. © Global Look Press / IMAGO / Olaf Schuelke

Making hundreds of thousands of able-bodied Ukrainian men who fled to the EU go back and join the army would greatly aid Kiev’s cause, German MP Roderich Kiesewetter told Die Welt daily on Monday. He also called a large number of Ukrainians avoiding military service one of the key problems the government of President Vladimir Zelensky was facing.

Kiev ordered a mass mobilization after hostilities with Russia began in February 2022 and barred men aged 18 to 60, who could potentially be called up for service, from leaving the country without a special waiver. Ukrainian officials and media have repeatedly referred to a large number of draft dodgers as officials struggle to refill army ranks amid heavy losses.

In October, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Natalya Kalmykova said that “tens, hundreds of thousands of people” were dodging the draft. Ukrainian media also reported in early November that as many as 8,000 Ukrainians were facing criminal charges for draft evasion.

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Die Welt reported in November that Kiev had resorted to conscripting key workers and potentially harming Ukraine’s long-term economic viability in order to meet the army’s needs.

Asked about demands for demobilization put forward by the families of Ukrainian soldiers, Kiesewetter said too many Ukrainians were reluctant to “relieve the burden” of their fellow citizens at the frontlines.

“The crux of the matter for Ukraine is that, in the European Union, for example, over 600,000 able-bodied Ukrainian men are avoiding military service,” the lawmaker said. Germany alone hosts some 220,000 such refugees, he added. Kiesewetter previously served with the German general staff and finished his military career as a colonel.

All those people should be urged to go back to their home country to either join the army or to “help … by supporting the Red Cross, clearing up rubble, helping the fire brigades and providing civil support,” the MP, a member of the biggest opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said.

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He added that Germans should “make an appeal to the young men who are fit for military service” and that Brussels “should do the same.” He estimated that the number of male able-bodied Ukrainians living in Germany alone would be enough to staff “more than 10 divisions” for Kiev.

Asked about potential diplomatic talks between Moscow and Kiev, Kiesewetter immediately rejected the idea, claiming Russia does not want to negotiate. Instead, he called for increased arms supplies to Ukraine, admitting that the war will last “for quite some time.”

Moscow has repeatedly said it is ready for talks with Kiev, as long as the reality of the situation on the ground is taken into account. Four former Ukrainian territories officially joined Russia in autumn 2022 following a series of referendums in a move that Kiev and its Western backers have never recognized.

On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RTVI that Russia has not closed the door on talks and would like to resolve the conflict through diplomatic and political means.