Poland to Encourage Ukrainian Men to Return Home and Fight

Kiev has urged its international allies to support its mobilization efforts by sending men of military age back to Ukraine.

Warsaw has agreed to help Kiev’s mobilization efforts by encouraging any Ukrainian men of military age in Poland to return home and join the fight against Russia.

Under the terms of a bilateral security treaty signed by Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Monday, Warsaw will “encourage” Ukrainian citizens to return to their homeland “to serve in the armed forces… and other security and defense forces.”

Kiev is struggling to conscript more troops to fight Russia, despite adopting a major reform earlier this year aimed at stamping out draft avoidance. Many Ukrainian men prefer to avoid mobilization, or even risk their lives by trying to illegally cross the border and flee to the EU, according to the Western media.

Senior Ukrainian officials have urged Western nations sheltering fighting-age Ukrainian men to persuade them to go home. Mikhail Podoliak, an aide to Zelensky, last December that “fellow Ukrainians should be denied residency permits, aid, and job opportunities by foreign governments.”

Kiev’s mobilization reform includes the denial of consular services for Ukrainian men residing in foreign nations, should they fail to report their personal details to the Defense Ministry. The restriction was introduced in April, even before the new system formally came into force.

Poland has granted temporary residence to some 950,000 Ukrainians since the hostilities with Russia broke out in 2022, which is among the largest number in EU countries. Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz said in April that Warsaw is seeking ways to help Kiev with its conscription efforts.

“I think that many of our compatriots were and are outraged when they see young Ukrainian men in cafes and hear about how much effort it takes us to help Ukraine,” he at the time.

Poland will host a “Ukrainian legion” – a new volunteer unit meant for Ukrainian citizens living in the EU – Zelensky said on Monday during a press conference with Tusk in Warsaw. It will be trained and armed by the West, he added.

The bilateral treaty with Warsaw is one of a series that Ukraine has signed with Western nations. They are intended to secure long-term military assistance for Kiev, as its bid to join NATO and receive full protection under its mutual defense clause is stalled by members of the US-led bloc.