Ukraine: Answers to questions about conscientious objection, recruitment and residence in Germany

by Connection e.V.

(31.01.2024) Since the Russian attack, over 60,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 130,000 seriously injured.(1) The recapture of the territories occupied by Russia has not yet been successful. To fill the gaps in the army, which is currently estimated at 800,000 soldiers, Ukraine is now trying to recruit 450,000 to 500,000 new soldiers.(2) Even many who consider the war to be justified see themselves merely as cannon fodder in this war of position and attrition from which they want to escape.

They, their relatives and the German public are therefore increasingly sending enquiries to Connection e.V., which we hereby answer.

Is there a right to conscientious objection in Ukraine?

The right to conscientious objection was suspended at the beginning of the war. It is enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution of 1991 - and there was also a very limited right that could only be exercised by members of ten religious communities who applied for it before being called up. But even this is no longer applied.(3) This illegality has also been criticised by the Ukrainian government’s human rights commissioner, Dymytro Lubinetz: The right to conscientious objection "must not be restricted."(4)

What is currently happening to conscientious objectors?

If conscientious objectors oppose their enlistment, the military initiates criminal prosecution. The penalty provided for this is one to five years’ imprisonment. The sentences handed down so far have been one to four years’ imprisonment (sometimes suspended). If a court acquits a conscientious objector, the army lodges an appeal against the judgement.(5)

Soldiers who refuse military service must expect to be harassed, that their applications will not be accepted or forwarded. In specific cases, the army prevented soldiers from appearing in court for a hearing on their conscientious objection. The rule that service in the army must be performed indefinitely also applies to them: conscientious objectors are not discharged.

There are currently appeals before the Supreme Court of Ukraine against the suspension of the possibility to apply for conscientious objection, against sentences of imprisonment and against the fact that conscientious objectors are not released from the army.(6)

How is recruitment organised in Ukraine?

While many people volunteered to serve in the army at the beginning of the war, this is no longer the case. There are now so-called recruitment waves. As many are trying to escape recruitment, recruitment is currently taking place mainly through companies. But recruitment is also taking place via specially set up checkpoints, at railway stations, bus terminals, public meeting points, accommodation providers, at the borders and also at churches. Anyone who does not want to comply with the call-up is put under pressure and sometimes even beaten.(7) There have been no convictions against such recruiters to date.

Ukraine is considered the second most corrupt country in Europe after Russia. In some cases, horrendous sums are demanded for deferrals, withdrawals and exit authorisations. Even though all the chairmen of the regional conscription offices have been dismissed and the defence minister has been replaced: Anyone with money or connections has the opportunity to escape military service.

What does the new draft law of 25 December 2023 on recruitment say?

The law has not yet been passed. The following is planned:

All men aged 16 and over are to be registered, as well as women in medical and pharmaceutical professions.

It should be possible for call-up notices to be sent electronically.

Persons with severe disabilities ("3rd class") are also to be considered fit for military service. This means, for example, that an eye, a kidney, a paralysed arm or a pacemaker will no longer count as a reason for being conscripted. In the past, military doctors have also demanded bribes from the seriously ill in return for a discharge certificate.

The sale of property is to be prohibited in order to prevent bribes and departures. No more loans are to be granted to conscripts and no more social benefits are to be provided without a military identity card. Embassies and consulates are also no longer to operate without a valid military ID.

Are conscientious objectors and deserters who have fled Ukraine protected in Germany?

All Ukrainian citizens who are entitled to stay under the Temporary Protection Directive may stay until 4 March 2025.(8) Extradition for military offences is not possible under the European Extradition Agreement.

Further information can also be found in the article Get out! - Information for dissatisfied soldiers from Ukraine


(1) "According to the New York Times, which relies on information from US intelligence circles, there were 70,000 dead and 130,000 seriously injured on the Ukrainian side by mid-August." Le Monde diplomatique, Nov. 23.

(2) "Selensky explained that the General Staff was asking him to call up to 500,000 people..." German weekly newspaper Freitag No.1, 4 Jan. 24

(3) Ukrainian Pacifist Movement: Violations of human right to conscientious objection to military service in Ukraine: from 24 February 2022 to November 2023.

(4) "The right of a person to alternative service /is/ absolute and may not be restricted due to the lack of a procedure to replace military service during martial law." Letter from the Human Rights Commissioner of the Ukrainian government, Dymytro Lubinetz, to the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, 3 March 2023.

(5) For example, in the case of conscientious objector Ruslan Kotsaba. EBCO Annual Report 2022/23 - 15.05.23. and also in the case of conscientious objector Dmytro Zelinsky. Source: (5)

(6) Ukrainian Pacifist Movement: Violations of human right to conscientious objection to military service in Ukraine: from 24 February 2022 to November 2023. For example, in the cases of conscientious objectors Vitaliy Alekseienko and Andrii Vyshnevetsky.

(7) "For example, in October 2023, a man was taken against his will to a recruitment centre in Ternopil and beaten there. In November 2023, recruiters in Lviv forcibly abducted men on the street." Source: (5)


Connection e.V.: Ukraine: Antworten auf Fragen zu Kriegsdienstverweigerung, Rekrutierung und Aufenthalt in Deutschland. 31.1.2024.

Keywords:    ⇒ Asylum   ⇒ Conscientious Objection   ⇒ Germany   ⇒ Ukraine