Ukrainian Military Is Planning Ways To Add Half A Million Troops, Zelenskyy Says

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Ukrainian military leadership proposed adding up to 500,000 troops to the nation’s forces, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at a press conference Tuesday, but a final decision on the matter has not been made.

Zelenskyy said he asked his top commanders to provide more details about what he termed a “a very sensitive matter” before he would be confident attempting such an intensive mobilization. Zelenskyy also said that Russia failed its objectives to occupy Ukraine and that he did not believe the U.S. or international partners would betray their promises to help Ukraine defend itself for as long as it takes.

“I would need to have more arguments to support that … it’s a question of defense capacity and of funding,” Zelenskyy said. “It has not been approved yet,” he said. (RELATED: ‘Not Enough’: House Speaker Throws Cold Water On Special Ukraine Watchdog In Defense Bill)

Mobilizing nearly half a million Ukrainians would cost the equivalent of $13.4 billion, he said, according to The Associated Press. The military would also have to consider whether and how often it could afford to rotate troops currently on the front lines, giving them a rest, after nearly two years of full-scale war.

One possibility to increase the pool of recruits would be to reduce the mobilization age from 27 to 25, Zelenskyy said, but he would not like to include women in the draft.

The legislature also needs to establish a process of demobilization “with specifics and great respect to soldiers,” he said.

As of October, the Ukrainian army had nearly 800,000 active duty troops, the AP reported, citing data from the nation’s defense ministry. Including National Guard and Territorial Defense Forces and other unit, Ukraine has roughly one million people in uniform.

“The Russian fleet is no longer dominating in the Black Sea” or impeding supply lines of good to and from Ukraine through the strait, Zelenskyy said.

Ukraine will receive additional Patriot air defense systems over the winter and NASAMS anti-aircraft systems for medium and long-range defenses against Russian airstrikes, Zelenskyy said, but did not provide further information.

Zelenskyy’s optimism at the press conference betrayed reported concerns among military planners of a dwindling supply of fighting men and ability to recover from a failed counteroffensive.

U.S. officials estimated in August that Ukraine had lost nearly 200,000 fighters, with 70,000 killed and between 100,000 and 120,000 wounded, The New York Times reported. Russia’s military, despite weathering higher casualty rates, still dwarfs the Ukrainian army three to one.

The president, strapped for weapons and funding, met a cold reception in a visit to Washington earlier in December as Congress debated whether to link Ukraine assistance with funds for security at the U.S. southern border.

Congress has not approved new funding for weapons and training for Ukraine.

The war has also exposed rifts between Zelenskyy and his commander in chief Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, who proclaimed that the counteroffensive had reached a stalemate in early November.

“I have a working relationship with Zaluzhny. He should be responsible for the results on the battlefield as a commander, together with the General Staff. There are many questions there,” Zelenskyy said.

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