War in Ukraine: Army of Grandfathers is supposed to defeat Putin - Kiev's soldiers are on average 45 years old

Kyiv has a soldier problem.

War in Ukraine: Army of Grandfathers is supposed to defeat Putin - Kiev's soldiers are on average 45 years old

Kyiv has a soldier problem. There are too few of them and those who are drawn are too old. Official figures are kept under wraps, but estimates in the West put the average age in the force at around 45 years. In individual units it should be even higher. Government advisor Serhiy Leshchenko reported in December that front-line units had an average age of 54.

The London Sunday Times was at a grandparent unit. "The average age of a soldier in my battalion is 45 years old," said Dmytro Berlym, commander of the 403rd Battalion of the 32nd Brigade of Ukraine. His unit is supposed to protect the city of Kupyansk in the north. The average age means: For every middle-aged fighter of 35, there is a man of 55. Even two for a 25-year-old.

"At this age it becomes difficult to fulfill tasks. For some it is difficult to carry ammunition and body armor to the front," Berlym told the paper. The good people were running out, and the "quality of reinforcement is getting worse and worse."

This is partly due to Ukrainian laws. You can volunteer from the age of 18, but you will only be recruited from the age of 27. This effect pushes the average age massively upwards. People are reluctant to talk about the mass exodus of Ukrainian men abroad. There are said to be over 600,000 men of military age in the EU, and these are just the official figures. There are also the Ukrainians who have sought refuge in Russia or third countries such as Turkey. And even before the war, Ukraine experienced an exodus of young people, not as an escape from the war, but from poverty and a lack of prospects.

The mobilization should not be fair. Anyone who lets relationships play out can buy their way out. At the end of December, the Wall Street Journal reported on the recruiting methods. A soldier with the nickname Dubok was abducted from outside his barbershop and held in a dark room until he signed. “Kidnapping” is not legal, but it is a common method. The electrical engineer actually thought he could be useful in a repair unit. “But to get a job like that, you have to pay bribes,” he told the paper. Instead, the 47-year-old was sent to the besieged city of Avdiivka. A hell in which the heaviest fighting is currently raging next to the bridgehead over the Dnieper. “Physically I can’t handle it,” said Dubok. "I'm not 20 anymore."

"A combination of corruption, exceptions and political caution has saved much of Ukraine's urban middle class from having to fight in the cold and muddy trenches," the WSJ bitterly analyzed. The old men from villages and small towns who were too poor to be able to buy their freedom ended up at the front. The "WSJ" also reported how it can be done differently. A 30-year-old architect from Odessa paid the equivalent of 8,000 euros for a false certificate so that he could leave the country legally.

Ihor Romanenko, a military analyst and former Ukrainian lieutenant general, says the draft practice is due to corruption. Young people in big cities are more likely to be able to afford bribes, and large companies protect their employees from being drafted. "But especially in the infantry, people over 35 have less potential to fulfill their mission than younger men." In the war in Ukraine, the infantry bears the brunt of the fighting. The soldiers are constantly attacked by drones and artillery. Without physical fitness, the older soldiers have no chance. Especially when the opponent attacks them with selected stormtroopers.

Ukraine urgently needs new soldiers. There is talk of 500,000. They must replenish losses, they should be used to create new brigades and, above all, they should enable rotation of front-line troops. Many of whom have been in service for two years with short breaks.

How this will succeed is currently unclear. In terms of population potential, it should be possible, but only if the middle class of the large cities is also involved. After two years of war, the reservoir of enthusiastic volunteers has been exhausted. "The sad news from the front is discouraging citizens from joining us," Dobro, a drone operator, told WSJ. "People are realizing that you shouldn't join the infantry if you want to see the end of the war."

Another problem: At the beginning of the war, it was primarily older people with military experience who took up arms. After two years of relentless fighting, if they survived, they burned out. A 50-year-old recovering from his injuries confessed to The Times: "I'm on the verge of collapse. I enlisted on the first day of the war but I can't take it anymore. But when we bring younger men to the front , they often can't handle it. We're getting hit by missiles, drones and white phosphorus. They're losing their minds. They're not ready for it." After recovering, he will return to the front: "I can't let the boys down."

Which: London Times, WSJ, Reuters