© John Moore/Getty Images/FileTroops Ukraine
Around 30 Ukrainian men have died while trying to illegally cross the border in order to avoid military service since the outbreak of the conflict with Russia in 2022, Andrey Demchenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's border service, told Ukrinform news agency in an interview published on Monday.

According to the spokesman, the men died while attempting to cross the border through the wilderness on foot.

Demchenko noted that people who attempt to illegally leave the country rarely do so on their own, and often use the services of criminal organizations that offer help in crossing the border. However, most of these groups do not provide real assistance, he said, leaving the draft dodgers at the mercy of nature and wild animals.
"They receive some instructions, transfer funds somewhere... and when they reach the border, they find that they would have to cross a mountain river... Many lose their lives when trying to cross rivers or scale ridges. In total, since the beginning of the [war], about 30 people have died trying to cross the border illegally."
According to Demchenko, the Ukrainian authorities have exposed around 450 criminal groups which have tried to smuggle people across the border since February 2022.

Demchenko noted that attempts to flee the country continue to occur every day, and most are registered on the border with Moldova and Romania.

"Every day we refuse border crossing to about 120 people, most often... when a person cannot confirm the purpose of his trip," the spokesman stated, adding that the number of attempted illegal crossings has not decreased since last year. Men trying to avoid military service by leaving the country have been known to change into women's clothes, hide in boxes, and even niches for spare wheels in cars, Demchenko added.

Draft dodging has become an increasingly pressing problem for Kiev. Under martial law, men between 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country if they are eligible to be conscripted, with only a few exceptions. In late December, the border guard reported that nearly 11,000 men were caught trying to escape the country in 2023 alone.

The BBC recently reported that from February 2022 to September 2023, nearly 20,000 men fled Ukraine to avoid being drafted. Another estimate made by Austrian news outlet Express with reference to Eurostat data suggested that the number could be as high as 650,000.