‘Waiting for My Time to Come’: Ukraine’s New Draft Law Unsettles the Young

Ukraine desperately needs to replenish its depleted forces in the face of relentless Russian attacks.

So it has lowered the draft age from 27 to 25.

That means that more young people will have to leave their jobs to join the army.

And face an almost certain future of violence and tragedy.

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‘Waiting for My Time to Come’: Ukraine’s New Draft Law Unsettles the Young

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Photographs by David Guttenfelder

By Yurii Shyvala and Thomas Gibbons-Neff

David Guttenfelder and Yurii Shyvala traveled across Ukraine to talk to young people about the country’s conscription law.

April 11, 2024, 12:01 a.m. ET

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine probably changed the fates of thousands of Ukrainian men when he signed a law lowering the draft age to 25 from 27 this month, more than two years after Russia began its full-scale invasion.

Ukrainian forces are struggling to hold back the far larger Russian Army, and desperately need their ranks replenished. Now many of the young men who remain in Ukraine — thousands of others have illegally fled the country — worry about their future.

Reporters from The New York Times spoke to Ukrainian men who could be affected by the change.

‘I am worried, even a little scared’

Yegor Khomchenko, the owner of a communal bakery in eastern Ukraine who turns 25 next month, said he had many friends who had gone to war.

But he said that his wife, Amelia, had told him that she would “do everything possible to prevent me from being taken away” if he were to be drafted.

“I am worried, even a little scared,” Mr. Khomchenko said. “But everything will be as God intended.”

Mr. Khomchenko lives in Druzhkivka, an industrial town in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. Russia has shelled the town with missiles and artillery, but life goes on, even though on most nights you can still hear the rumble of fighting on the front line nearby. At the beginning of the war, his wife, then pregnant, traveled to the central Ukraine city of Dnipro. She returned home after giving birth to their son.

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