Wed. May 29th, 2024

‘Outraged’: Ukraine cuts off essential services for military-aged men in Australia

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May23,2024
Key Points
  • Ukraine has “temporarily” suspended consular services for male citizens aged 18 to 60 abroad.
  • The move came just one week after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a new mobilisation law.
  • Some Ukrainians living in Australia are worried their passports may expire before they’re able to renew them.
Ukraine has restricted consular services for men of fighting age in a renewed bid to boost its military might — a move that has angered and worried some Ukrainians in Australia.
A decision, made on 23 April, meant male citizens aged 18 to 60 who live abroad could not apply for consular assistance, according to the Embassy of Ukraine in Australia and New Zealand.
That means they could not access essential services including passport renewals.
The move came just one week after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a new mobilisation law that obliges all male citizens between 18 and 60 to update their personal data with the military authorities, allowing draft offices to see who can be called up to fight.

That legislation also proposed a tracking procedure for Ukrainians overseas and stipulated that anyone seeking consular services would have to present their military registration documents, as part of a raft of changes due to come into effect on 18 May.

A Ukrainian soldier sits in a chair cleaning his rifle.

The Ukrainian government is trying to bolster the country’s military ranks. Source: AP / Andriy Andriyenko

The consular restrictions — which the embassy said was “a temporary step due to the need to resolve issues regarding the military registration of citizens of mobilisation age who are abroad” — will be in place until 18 May. From that date on, male Ukrainians aged 18 to 60 who are living overseas will be able to receive consular services only if they have an up-to-date military ID, as well as updated data at the territorial acquisition centres (TCC).

Those who left the country legally and have a valid military ID will be able to update their data by calling or sending a request to the TCC in Ukraine.

Many of the changes remain unclear, though — including whether Ukrainians abroad will be able to undergo the medical examinations required to either get a military ID or confirm a health condition that would grant full or partial exemption from military service.

‘How can one understand this?’

Since the restrictions were announced, Ukraine’s government has stressed that it will not forcibly bring military-age Ukrainian men back from other countries.

But they may not have to. There are fears that those without a valid military ID will continue to be barred from receiving consular services including the renewal of visas and passports — forcing them to either return to Ukraine, or remain abroad illegally.

Aleks — who is being referred to under a pseudonym for security reasons — is among them.
He and his mother Nina fled Ukraine three days after in February 2022, shortly after his 16th birthday. It was also around the time the Ukrainian government imposed martial law and banned males aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country in a bid to “[guarantee] Ukraine’s defence”.
By the time they crossed the border, Nina and Aleks hadn’t had the chance to officially register Aleks with the military authorities — a legal requirement for male adults in Ukraine.
They were heading to Australia, where since the full-scale invasion began.
Ukraine has banned men 18 to 60 years old from leaving the country, and it recently lowered conscription age from 27 to 25.
“We didn’t have time to arrange his military documents; unfortunately, we couldn’t manage to get this done properly,” Nina* told SBS News. “It should have been done before the age of 17, but he left at 16. Now he is 18 years old.”
Aleks is epileptic, meaning he is entitled to an exemption from military service. But in Ukraine, a person’s disability status expires after two years — and while the government has said that those living abroad will continue having their disability recognised until martial law is lifted, the uncertainty of the new mobilisation laws has made Nina anxious.
If she and her son were forced to return to Ukraine to confirm he has a disability, Nina — who as a doctor is — fears they would not be able to leave.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that Aleks is medically advised against flying.
“His disability status has an expiration date, but we are not in Ukraine and cannot renew it,” Nina said. “In a few years, his Ukrainian passport will expire. What should we do? What should be done in this situation? How should I bring him, who is ill, to Ukraine for six months so that they, under gunfire and bombs, with his hard-to-control epilepsy, would grant him disability status and exempt him?

“How can one understand this?”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Source: Getty / Laurent Van Der Stockt/Getty Images

Another Ukrainian in Australia, speaking to on the condition of anonymity, said that since he left Ukraine due to the war, his status as a military serviceman changed from “limited fit [for military service]” to “fit,” as his health issue was removed from the list of diseases that exempt him from military service.

If he returns to Ukraine now he runs the risk of being sent to fight — but fears that if the restrictions on providing consular services to men of conscription age last longer than his passport’s validity, he won’t be able to apply for the next visa in Australia.
The day after the restrictions on consular services were announced, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba took to X (formerly Twitter) to defend the move, saying that while protecting the rights of Ukrainians abroad was still key, “the main priority is to protect our homeland from destruction”.
Kuleba suggested that Ukrainian males of conscription age were abandoning their country, then expecting to receive support abroad.
“It does not work this way,” he said. “Our country is at war.”

“Staying abroad does not relieve a citizen of his or her duties to the homeland. That is why yesterday I ordered measures to restore fair attitudes toward men of conscription age in Ukraine and abroad. This will be fair.”

‘Outraged’

Many disagree with Kuleba on this final point.
Helen*, another Ukrainian living in Australia, told SBS News she was “strongly against” the suspension of consular services for fighting-aged male citizens.
“I am, of course, outraged … although it does not personally affect me,” Helen said. “I do not have such a problem; I am a woman, and we do not fall under this category of citizens. But I understand that this is the first step towards what will continue to happen.”

Helen suggested the decision was clearly motivated by political will, and described it as “illegal”. Others have made similar claims, accusing the Ukrainian government of breaking the law by enforcing the suspension before the mobilisation laws came into effect.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the accusations.
“Men of military age who have updated their personal details in accordance with the requirements of the law will be able to apply for consular services, obtain a slot in the electronic queue, and get an appointment at the consulate,” the ministry said, noting that “more extensive explanations” would be made once more details were determined and agreed upon.
While the decision to cut consular services to conscription-aged Ukrainian males abroad has proven controversial, some expatriates support it.
Tetyana Kovalchuk, a Ukrainian living in Australia, suggested that the Ukrainian government’s move — which she described as “legal and its sovereign right” — doesn’t go far enough, and is unfair only insofar as it applies to one particular demographic.
“It violates Article 17 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which states that defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine is the business of ALL Ukrainian people,” Kovalchuk told News. “Therefore, the termination of consular services, if it involves the goal of returning people to Ukraine to protect the country, must be introduced for ALL holders of Ukrainian passports who need their re-issuance.”
“Ukraine now needs defenders in different areas, both at the front and in the rear, all ages are suitable,” Kovalchuk said, suggesting that Ukrainians who refused to comply with that expectation could renounce their citizenship.
In a statement to SBS News, a spokesperson from Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said visa applicants are typically required to hold a passport — either one that is valid, or has had its validity extended by relevant authorities.
However, “there are provisions that allow the department to grant a visa to an applicant without a valid passport if it would be unreasonable to require the applicant to hold a passport,” the spokesperson said.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that nearly 6.5 million Ukrainians have fled their country, noting that a growing number appear uncertain as to whether they would ever return.
About 59 per cent of Ukrainian refugees UNHCR surveyed indicated that they might be forced to return home, even if they don’t want to, if they continue to face challenges in host countries related to work opportunities and legal status.

*Requested their last name to be withheld.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “‘Outraged’: Ukraine cuts off essential services for military-aged men in Australia”
  1. As an Australian Ukrainian, I feel frustrated by the sudden suspension of consular services for men of military age. It’s concerning that our passports may expire before we can renew them. Hopefully, this situation is resolved soon.

  2. As a Ukrainian living in Australia, I am deeply concerned about the recent decision to cut off consular services for male citizens aged 18 to 60 abroad. It’s outrageous that our passports could expire before we can renew them. This move only adds to the worries of many Ukrainians already facing uncertainties.

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