FILE PHOTO: Senior German opposition lawmaker Thorsten Frei.
© Global Look Press / IMAGO / dts news agencyFILE PHOTO: Senior German opposition lawmaker Thorsten Frei.
Berlin's generous welfare benefits undermine Kiev's war effort, a senior MP has said

The German government should stop providing social benefits to Ukrainians, senior MP Thorsten Frei said on Sunday. He argued that the move would incentivize Ukrainian men to return to their home country and join the army amid the conflict with Russia.

Frei, the deputy head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the Bundestag, accused Ukrainians of fleeing to Germany in order to avoid mobilization at home.

"While everything is at stake for Kiev in the face of the brutal Russian attack, many Ukrainians in this country who are able to defend [their homeland] are ducking out of it," Frei told Funke Mediengruppe. "We should be honest: the benefits... to war refugees are providing completely wrong incentives."

Frei was referring to a welfare program known as 'Buergergeld' which allows Ukrainians to receive €563 ($610) a month. Asylum seekers from other countries are entitled to €460, according to the tabloid Bild.

Another CDU member, Brandenburg Interior Minister Michael Stuebgen, said over the weekend "it does not make sense to talk about supporting Ukraine in the best way possible and support Ukrainian deserters at the same time." The idea of automatically offering benefits to Ukrainian refugees is "a fundamental mistake," he said, citing their low unemployment rate.

The general secretary of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Bijan Djir-Sarai, told Bild on Sunday that "newly arriving war refugees from Ukraine should no longer receive Buergergeld payments." He argued that they should only be entitled to asylum seeker benefits instead.

Around 1.3 million Ukrainian refugees were residing in Germany as of March 2024, according to Eurostat. Around 256,000 of them are men aged 18 to 60, according to German media.

Ukraine has been struggling to find new recruits as its armed forces have been suffering heavy casualties. Russian Defense Minister Andrey Belousov said on Friday that Ukraine lost more than 35,000 troops to the fighting in May alone. Earlier in the month, Moscow estimated Kiev's losses since the start of 2024 at over 111,000.

This spring, Kiev tightened its mobilization rules and lowered the draft age from 27 to 25. The draft campaign has been marred by widespread dodging and allegations of corruption.

Kiev has sought to bring draft dodgers back to the country by denying them consular services abroad and the ability to update their ID papers outside of Ukraine. Some senior Ukrainian officials have also said they want Western countries to send draft dodgers back home.