© Genya Savilov/AFPUkrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podoliak • Kiev • November 17, 2022
Mikhail Podoliak weighed in on a video showing armed Ukrainian soldiers serving draft notices to gym-goers...

Mobilization in Ukraine will be difficult, Mikhail Podoliak, a top aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, has acknowledged, adding that Kiev intends to hone its propaganda campaign for this purpose.

Speaking on Ukrainian TV on Friday, Podoliak was asked to comment on a recent raid by Ukrainian officials and armed service members on a gym in western Ukraine, where all males present were served with draft notices. Incidents of potential conscripts being ambushed by draft officials in shopping malls, restaurants, and other public places have become more frequent in recent months.

The senior aide defended the conscription drive, accusing reluctant Ukrainians of wanting "to live in a free state where you can behave as you please, but not wanting to protect the rights that you love," adding that the situation will drastically change if Russia achieves victory.

Comment: It would likely get better.

Podoliak also said that Kiev intends to change "the propaganda element of the mobilization procedures." He explained that much depends on whether the government can win over those who "don't really understand what the war is and what consequences it may lead to if it's not finished in the right way."

Ukraine announced a general mobilization shortly after the start of the conflict with Russia in February 2022, barring most men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country. The conscription drive, however, has been marred by rampant corruption and draft dodging. According to the BBC, around 20,000 potential conscripts have fled the country to avoid being sent to the front lines, with approximately the same number caught in the process.

In late November, Zelensky teased a new "complex plan" of mobilization, without providing details. Aleksey Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, signaled that Kiev had signed contracts with recruitment companies to entice those reluctant to enlist. Earlier, the official said that during the conflict with Russia, every Ukrainian citizen "has to fight a war or perform a service."

Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) said last month that Kiev's Western backers had advised Ukraine to lower the minimum conscription age to 17 and increase the maximum to 70, as well as calling up more women.

Kiev's push to address its manpower issues comes amid a faltering counteroffensive, which started in early summer but has failed to gain any substantial ground. Moscow has described Ukraine's losses as devastating.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Kiev has lost over 125,000 soldiers in the past six months, adding that Western arms deliveries and Ukraine's decision to commit its strategic reserves to the fight "only increased the number of casualties."