KIJ, UKRAINE (AP) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Elensky has signed a law allowing conscripts to be drafted without a mobilization, his office said on Wednesday.
The move comes amid a massive crackdown on Russian troops near the Ukrainian border in violation of a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
A new law passed by the Ukrainian parliament in late March will allow the country to “rapidly equip all state defense forces with reservists, thus significantly increasing their combat readiness in the event of military aggression,” Ze Zelensky said in a statement.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said on Tuesday that Russia’s accumulation across the border was “expected to reach more than 120,000 troops within a week” and called on the West to tighten sanctions on Moscow, Russia’s economy.
Moscow rejected Ukraine’s concerns over the build-up, saying it was free to deploy its forces, stressing that they posed no threat to anyone. At the same time, the Kremlin has warned Ukrainian authorities not to use force to regain control of the rebel-held east, saying Russia may have to intervene to protect civilians in the region.
Zelensky said in a video message on Tuesday that “Ukraine will never start a war, but will always stand to the end,” and offered to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in eastern Ukraine to ease tensions.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that he was not sure Putin had time to look at Len Yelensky.