Ukraine Mobilizes Women, Elderly Amid Failed Counteroffensive and a Broken Social System
Dmitri Kovalevich, Orinoco Tribune, October 14, 2023
Huge losses during Ukraine’s failed counteroffensive are behind the first attempts to formally mobilize women and the elderly for military service.
The month of October 2023 marks four months since the beginning of a Ukrainian counteroffensive. The counteroffensive was widely publicized in the West at its beginning. U.S. and British generals pinned high hopes on it, stepping up their weapons supply and training of the Ukraine Armed Forces. But after four months, the counteroffensive has yielded no results. Ukrainian forces are stuck before the Russian defense lines with no way to break through.
Ukraine’s failed counteroffensive
At three points of the front line in what was previously southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military managed to penetrate four to five kilometers into territory controlled by the Russian armed forces, only to find themselves in cauldrons, that is, semi-enclosures where the AFU forces were methodically destroyed by Russian fire raining down from three sides. Such semi-enclosures, like the one formed in August near the village of Rabotino in the Zaporozhye region, are maintained by Ukraine, costing heavy losses. The practice is encouraged by Western governments as part of avoiding a withering of public support in the NATO countries for continued warfare.
The Ukrainian telegram channel Klymenko-Time wrote on its Telegram channel on September 27, “It will be extremely difficult for the Ukrainian army to hold enclosures until the onset of cold weather. Logistically, it’s a complete hellhole there, and it’s also being shelled from all sides by Russian forces. But the military is also dominated by political interests and leaving the district of Rabotino after four months of a bloody meat grinder will be a media disaster.”
Western-supplied military equipment is very expensive and its stocks are limited, so in most cases, it has been held in reserve during the ‘counteroffensive’. Military transport vehicles bring the mobilized Ukrainian soldiers (many of whom are forcibly conscripted) no closer than three to four kilometers to the front line, after which they are prodded into attempts to cross Russian minefields on foot. They have to carry water and food supplies with them as it is unrealistic to store such along the front lines; Western-supplied food and weapons do not last more than a few days there. The news report on this also cites Kirill Budanov, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, acknowledging to the Wall Street Journal, that most offensive action by Ukraine is being carried out by soldiers on foot.
According to surviving Ukrainian soldiers, what the newly arrived at the front can expect are orders to dig a deep hole in a trench as quickly as possible and then sit there for a few days until the arrival of rotating military personnel. Such conditions contributed to a significant increase in the number of Ukrainian soldiers surrendering in September. “The number of Ukrainian units and soldiers that are giving up is increasing daily, most of it happens at the lowest level because these people have had no effective training. They’re not prepared for combat and they are being sent to their deaths,” reports the U.S.-published Military Watch magazine on October 2. It also reports Ukrainian servicemen claiming that casualty rates in some of their units have reached 80-to-90 percent.
The Ukrainian telegram channel First News wrote on October 3: “Losses during the defense of Bakhmut and the summer counteroffensive, which spilled over into a fall offensive, exacerbated the shortage of personnel. For four months, the Ukrainian forces have not achieved any significant victories, occupying only small, destroyed villages and settlements, without liberating any major cities. At the same time, the losses among Ukrainian servicemen during the storming of the positions of the Russians are colossal.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says that after four months of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russian troops have caused serious damage to the AFU and significantly weakened its combat potential.
According to seasonal weather patterns, October will bring rain, cold weather, and washed-out roads to Ukraine. This means additional reasons why Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fade.
In such a situation, as reported by CNN, there is a sense of impending stalemate even among many Western analysts and officials. Nevertheless, American military analysts with the Institute for the Study of War are manipulating words to try and show that the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian armed forces is not a failure. “Putin may have ordered the Russian military command to hold all Russia’s initial defensive positions to create the illusion that Ukrainian counteroffensives have not achieved any tactical or operational effects despite substantial Western support,” it wrote on Twitter/X on September 24.
In other words, the actual holding of the defensive lines is an “illusion” and an example of the failure of the counteroffensive. Ukraine officials confirm this in their own words.
In the name of maintaining interest and attention in the West for war in Ukraine, the governing regime in Kiev is effectively seeking to extend the conflict to third countries. For example, at the end of September, the British Guardian reported that among the suggestions by Ukraine for action by Ukraine’s western allies are missile strikes on factories in Iran and Syria producing weapons. The strikes can be carried by Ukraine, says Kiev; the West need only provide the military means to conduct the strikes.
Women being mobilized for NATO’s war
Huge losses during Ukraine’s failed counteroffensive are behind the first attempts to formally mobilize women for military service. Of note is that Ukrainian authorities are looking favorably at “Israel’s” experience with female military personnel.
As of October 1, female medical personnel in Ukraine are required to register for military service. Once mobilized, they have the same restrictions as men who are conscripted. One of these restrictions is the highly controversial ban on travel abroad. In Ukraine, all men of military age as well as women mobilized for military service are barred from travel abroad. When a similar law was proposed last year, it was withdrawn following outcries.
Pharmacists as well as women who once received medical or pharmaceutical education but have not worked in their field of training must also register. Under Ukrainian law, women on the military registry may be called up for military service or may be otherwise assigned to military tasks.
Fyodor Venislavsky, President Zelensky’s representative in the Verkhovna Rada (‘Supreme Council’, or legislature) of Ukraine, said one month ago that travel abroad would also be restricted for all women mobilized into military service. One of the reasons cited by Ukrainian authorities for this policy is “the fight against gender discrimination”. In Ukraine, such phrasing usually signifies and results in restrictions on women’s rights.
Without waiting for the restrictions to be introduced, female pharmacists and medics began to leave Ukraine en masse in September, causing a shortage of staff in hospitals and pharmacies. Pharmacists claim that soon there will be no one to work in pharmacies. “Pharmacy owners are panicking, people are writing applications and leaving for Europe before the borders are closed. Who will work is an open question, especially since there is already a serious crisis in the industry,” says Elena Prudnikova, head of the Ukrainian association PharmRada.
The Verkhovna Rada also proposes to raise the age limit for service in the armed forces. It is proposed to increase the age limit of service up to 65 years of age for lower ranks and junior officers, while for senior officers it will be raised to 70 years.
The reach of military conscription widens
In early September, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry also amended rules exempting Ukrainians from military service on health grounds. From now on, people with clinically cured tuberculosis, viral hepatitis under treatment, slowly progressing blood diseases, thyroid gland diseases with minor functional disorders, and those who are HIV-positive but without symptoms are all considered still fit for military service.
In addition, people suffering from mild mental disorders, neurotic disorders, slowly progressive diseases of the central nervous system, and others have been added to the list, reports Kyiv Independent.
So altogether, women, the elderly, and people with serious health problems have become the latest targets for serving in a ‘counteroffensive’ designed to please political and military leaders in the United States and Europe.
Foreign domination in the name of ‘fighting corruption’
Meanwhile, the United States is strengthening its economic grip and control over Ukraine, making it virtually a colony under the control of appointees from the U.S. administration. Control is to be exercised under the pretext of fighting corruption. “Biden administration officials are far more worried about corruption in Ukraine than they publicly admit,” the online Politico reports on October 2.
Corruption has always been inherent in Ukrainian governments, but the West does not fight it, it merely acts to bring corrupt Ukrainian officials under its control. At the end of September, Ukrainian politicians and mass media were actively discussing the new requirements of the U.S. administration which were presented to the Kiev regime following Zelensky’s return from his second official visit to the U.S. in September. If Kiev refuses to fulfill the demands for ‘anti-corruption measures’, some U.S. politicians say they may cut military aid. That would bring defeat and the end of the Kiev regime.
The U.S. requirements were contained in a diplomatic letter to Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and President Volodymyr Zelensky in September, with copies to all Western ‘donors’ to Ukraine (EU, G7 countries, IMF, World Bank, EIB, EBRD). The essence of all the reforms demanded is that Ukraine should select judges, anti-corruption fighters, and the management of state enterprises on the recommendation of “international experts”. Since 2014, these “experts” have been representatives of the Western business elite.
In addition, Ukraine is being told to “liberalize” gas and electricity tariffs, that is, to raise them, notwithstanding the ‘freeze’ of tariffs that Zelensky promised for the period of martial law. Ukraine MP Maxim Buzhansky from Zelensky’s party believes that Zelensky has no choice in this regard, no matter what he previously promised to Ukrainians. “In short, the situation is as follows. If we accept the new package of reforms from our partners, they will allow us to raise tariffs. And if we fail to accept them, they will force us to raise them,” Buzhansky writes.
Another MP, Oleksandr Dubinsky claims that the fulfillment of all the U.S. requirements will turn the Ukrainian president into a figurehead. Zelensky may merely appear to fulfill the U.S. requirements. Dubinsky writes, “What is interesting is that the fulfillment of all points of the requirements will allow the United States to take full control over the entire financial and economic as well as anti-corruption system of Ukraine. This will literally turn Zelensky into a ceremonial figure, depriving him of his illegal levers of influence on all branches of government. His closest entourage will turn into potential ‘jailers’ for corruption.”
Ukrainian ministers are truly frightened by the prospect of being left without U.S. funding. They have immediately rushed to implement the latest neoliberal reforms demanded by the IMF.
Cuts to the social wage are on the agenda of the Ukraine gov’t
Oksana Zholnovych, Ukraine’s minister of social policy, announced in early October that the government would overhaul its system of social benefits. “If a social benefit payment is there simply for historical reasons, then, obviously, it should be reformatted into something else, into some kind of support that a person will really need and that will be effective. This will be the new social contract,” she said. She warned that recipients of social assistance now have one year to “get back on their feet”. (There is deep irony in these words. Several days ago, Zholnovych warned that there are some three million disabled people in Ukraine today; that number increased by 300,000 during the past year.)
The same Ukrainian minister of social policy says Ukrainians “live in a comfort zone” which needs to be removed. She said, as reported by Interfax Ukraine, that people abuse social assistance and do not want to take responsibility for their lives. “We need to break everything that is social in the country and reformat social policy in the state from scratch,” the minister said, emphasizing that a Ukrainian should not feel like a “teenager” to whom the state owes something.
“We need to break everything that is social today, and simply reformat from scratch a new social contract on social policy in our state. Many citizens are, in a certain sense, teenagers, believing the state owes them care and help but are unwilling to participate in personal development and take responsibility. This is the philosophy that we definitely must break.”
Thousands of Ukrainians have lost limbs and suffered terrible injuries defending the Ukrainian state and its Western masters. According to the minister, nothing “humiliates a citizen more than a small salary paid on time”, which allegedly prevents him or her from self-developing. According to her, crippled veterans of the Ukrainian Armed Forces may only require prosthetic limbs and retraining in order to be “released into the world”.
Ukraine is very unlucky with its officials responsible for social policy. Back in 2017, then-minister of social policy, Andrey Reva claimed that Ukrainians (the poorest country in Europe) eat too much, spending something like 50 percent of their income on food. In contrast, he said, people in Germany spend much less on food even though prices (at the time) were similar. He said Germans only spend 14 percent of their income on food. The minister said nothing of the vast income disparities between Ukraine and Germany.) This example shows how distant from working-class Ukrainians are Ukrainian officials, some of whom are responsible for disbursing U.S. and IMF donations to their government. They are seemingly unaware that in some countries of the world, many people may spend 100% of their income on food.
The head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Social Policy, Halyna Tretyakova, has gone the furthest in outlandish claims of social benefits abuse. In 2020, she made statements of a fascist nature saying that children of low-income parents are of “poor quality” Ukraine might follow the example of governments that have sterilized mothers unable to support their children.
She is the author of the anti-union bill 5371, adopted in August 2022, which will make it almost impossible for many Ukrainian workers to organize and fight for their working conditions and wages. Under the new law, people who work for firms with up to 250 employees are no longer protected by the national labor code; they are, instead, now supposed to negotiate individual agreements with their employer. (An earlier effort in 2019 to remove trade union rights, Bill 2681, was dropped following intense international pressure by trade unions and others.)
The IMF, meanwhile, wants a host of measures to improve Ukrainian government revenues, including through raising taxes. The government recently released a draft of Ukraine’s 2024 budget where just under half of all its anticipated funding will come from international donors.
Ukraine’s supporters are deeply concerned that the political infighting in Washington may disrupt the flow of money and arms by the U.S. to Kiev. They are also now deeply concerned that the conflict between the Palestinian people and their occupier “Israel” may also lessen attention and support from the West for its conflict with Russia.
Since the Euromaidan events of late 2013/early 2014, all Ukrainian ministers have consistently pursued anti-social policies in order to gain the trust of the United States. Month after month, they have driven thousands of Ukrainians to death or injury on the front lines of a war against Russia. Now they are talking of denying social assistance even to those who were wounded but survived.