MOSCOW, October 2. /TASS/. Ukraine’s population continues to shrink and currently stands at 23 mln, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov (in office in 2010-2014) said.
"As many as 23 million people remain in the country, but only 3.5 million Ukrainians are capable of carrying on military operations. Young people of working age are leaving the country in droves," he wrote on Telegram.
A think tank, the Ukrainian Іnstitute for the Future, reported in early June that the country’s population had shrunk to 29 mln, while the birth rate had declined by half compared to the level necessary for maintaining the population at previous levels.
Azarov pointed out that the mobilization campaign is continuing throughout the country at a rapid pace. "Military enlistment officers are tasked with recruiting enough troops to carry out large-scale ‘cannon fodder attacks’ for at least a year. Experts have even specified the number, saying that up to 500,000 ‘volunteers’ need to be recruited by next spring. Given that the country’s mobilization potential has in fact been exhausted, the authorities will employ increasingly tough measures," he noted.
The former prime minister stressed that requirements for recruits had been lowered in Ukraine recently as the decision was made to recruit even those afflicted with HIV, hepatitis and psychiatric conditions. Additionally, effective October 1, female medical workers and pharmacists are now obligated to register for military service.
Roman Kostenko, secretary of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada (parliament) National Security and Defense Committee, said in mid-September that the country would have to carry out "a more intense" mobilization campaign. He added that 80% of mobilized Ukrainian troops currently consisted of people who were not professional soldiers.