Since yesterday, Ukrainians have been trying to find out if people liable for military service were prohibited from traveling between cities or regions during martial law without special permission.
Spoiler: only one of the official commentaries on the new old rules of traveling during wartime was clear and rational, while all other explanations from the General Staff and representatives of the Servant of the People party followed the "complying with the 1992 law" line. tried to find out what went wrong.
Zaporizhzhia region: people liable for military service need a permit to leave
On July 4, a post appeared on the official Facebook account of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration saying that people liable for military service now need a permit to cross an administrative border of a region or city.
Citing Ukrainian law, the RMA stated that citizens registered for military service in the Zaporizhzhia region will be able to leave only if they have permission from the head of the Territorial Center of Recruitment and Social Support of their city or district.
The RMA also provided a permission form to be filled in by those who have no military service deferment.
In addition, the Zaporizhzhia Regional Administration posted an application form needed to obtain permission.
Prohibition to leave the place of resodence: explanation from the General Staff of the AFU
The post by the Zaporizhzhia RMA caused much confusion and discussions on social media: people were indignant at the expectation that the need to obtain these permissions would cause queues in military registration offices, halt the work of volunteers who constantly have to travel across the country, and paralyze businesses.
Later, the Ministry of Defense first issued their explanation denying a direct travel ban, and then an explanation from the General Staff of the AFU came out, which confirmed that everything is in compliance with… the law passed in 1992.
The post cited the law On General Military Duty and Military Service, which prohibits conscripts, people liable for military service, and reservists from leaving their places of residence during wartime without special permission.
The purpose of control over traveling to other regions was said to be "the arrangement of due registration of displaced people."
The General Staff explained that it has developed a procedure for granting this permission to travel for a term ranging from 30 days to 1 year depending on the category a person belongs to. It can be obtained from the head of the respective Territorial Center of Recruitment and Social Support.
"We are considering additional regulation of the travel of people who systematically cross administrative borders due to service or personal exigency," the General Staff affirmed.
The order from Zaluzhnyi on the prohibition to leave for those liable for service and "everything will be explained tomorrow"
The post from the General Staff has obviously made the situation even more confusing. Why is it only now that this long-forgotten regulation has been revived? What’s going on with mobilization?
To dispel the darkness (though to no avail), deputy head of the Committee for Digital Transformation of the Parliament and MP from the Servant of the People Oleksandr Fedienko posted a screenshot of the order of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi, now citing three Ukrainian laws:
- On The Legal Regime Of Martial Law;
- On Mobilization Preparation and Mobilization;
- On General Military Duty and Military Service.
"I’ll write more information and give my legal opinion tomorrow. Please take into account that there’s a war, and everything changes quite rapidly. The Ministry of Defense is strictly abiding by the current legislation," wrote Fedienko, thus making everything even more obscure.
Later, Valerii Zaluzhnyi himself commented on his order as follows:
Dear citizens, conscripts, and those liable for military service! I remind you that the war is still ongoing. Your country needs you! All those who haven't yet registered or haven’t renewed their military registration must do it. Those of you who plan to travel outside your districts and regions must obtain a permit from the Territorial Center of Recruitment.
At the same time, the Commander-in-Chief contradicted himself, stating that no instructions to prevent the movement of people had been given by the military command in recent days. Zaluzhnyi also added a link to the procedure for leaving one’s place of residence and the application forms, which have already been given by the Zaporizhzhia RMA.
The servant of the People on the prohibition to cross the region borders: discordant comments
The deputy head of the Committee for Economic Development, an MP from the Servant of the People Roksolana Pidlasa also commented on the order of Zaluzhnyi and promised to do everything necessary to adjust the outmoded legislation.
"The decision to prohibit men (and soon also women) from leaving their cities of residence without permission from the military commissar is nonsense that will cause a social explosion and ruin the economy," the politician reproached.
She added that, being a legally capable citizen, she sees no need to obtain anyone’s permission for herself to travel within the country.
"Generally, I would prefer that the government never remembers me, and my interactions with it are limited to taps in the Diia app. As a member of parliament, I will put maximum effort into changing the laws that have made this rubbish possible," Pidlasa wrote.
At the same time, the MP justifies the current situation by the 1992 law and not the fact that it was used by Zaluzhnyi in his order. Answering the remark that the root of the problem is not the law but the actions of the government, Pidlasa wrote:
"The question about the root of the problem is a philosophical one, but the legal grounds for the decision of the General Staff lie in the law."
Another interpretation of the order of the General Staff and the new confusion
Yevheniia Riabeka, a coordinator of the movement of lawyers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, cast some light on the issue in her commentary for RBC Ukraine.
According to her, despite all previous statements by the General Staff, the RMA, and Zaluzhnyi himself, men liable for military service can travel freely across Ukraine and need no permission for that.
She said that there will be no restrictions on leaving, but they will have to check in with the relevant authorities when changing their place of residence. Riabeka assured that the order has been "construed incorrectly" and that it addresses only those who want to change their registered residence.
To do so, a person liable for military service first has to go to the center of military recruitment to be struck off the register, and only then can they leave and register in the new place.
"Maybe the document that was published was formulated somewhat unclearly. But the purpose is to arrange this registration, so that recruitment centers have it in order," Riabeka said.
She noted that it’s more of an internal document, but the public got it in its own way (although there are hardly many ways to understand the words about the restriction of crossing the administrative borders of regions).
"There will be consultations today to adjust this document according to the law and make amendments. Nobody’s willing to stop the economy and business," the coordinator affirmed.
The balance of free travel across Ukraine
However, Riabeka wasn’t the last one to give explanations, as the Ministry of Defense entered the game of explaining Zaluzhnyi’s order once again.
The speaker of the Ministry Oleksandr Motuzianyk, for his part, said nothing about amendments to the document: he only affirmed that there was no disaster here and that the procedure for crossing administrative borders will be "polished" by… the territorial centers of recruitment and social support themselves.
"Believe me, the balance between ensuring the right to free travel and controlling the mobilization base will be kept," Motuzianyk assured.
Commenting on the fact that there were no such restrictions before, the speaker stressed that there’s war in the country, repeating Zaluzhnyi’s rhetoric, and the government has to understand the amount of mobilization base it has.
"Heads of territorial centers of recruitment need to have the information and know where the said resource is to know how to intensify this process," he stressed.
So will those liable for service be allowed to travel within Ukraine?
From all the explanations, it is clear that:
- In the coming days, there will be no restrictions on crossing administrative borders;
- To change the registered residence, those who have no military service deferment first have to be struck off the register and obtain permission;
- The order on leaving the place of residence, as well as the laws of Ukraine on military service and martial law, may be amended in the future;
- Neither the Ministry of Defense, nor the General Staff or local RMAs have considered all possible consequences of a sudden enactment of this regulation, and now they are trying to reduce social unrest;
- The way government authorities communicate and explain their decisions to the public leaves much room for improvement.
Artem Krykun-Trush, a lawyer and manager of PwC in Ukraine, confirms that the provision of law can, in fact, be effective during wartime, i.e. even without martial law declared.
At the same time, the problem is not the 1992 provision being revived after not having worked for 8 years, as if someone had suddenly come across it, the lawyer stressed:
"The bad thing is not that they decided to revive this provision, but that it’s a very clumsy revival."
As Trush explained, there’s logic in the requirement to be struck off the military register to change the registered place of residence, because there’s no sense in striking you off the register if you don’t change your place of residence.
"That means, for instance, if a lawyer has a business trip to another region, it doesn’t mean they change their place of residence. This also applies to other citizens who travel for a purpose other than changing their place of residence: to see their parents or friends, or to do some business," the lawyer says.
At the same time, according to the published order and procedure, even such short-term trips need permission from a military center, and it will overload military registration offices, as well as persons at checkpoints, to say nothing of corruption risks.
Trush believes that there could be reasons for mandating such permits for internally displaced people since they officially change their place of residence, but still, a note of being struck off the military register would be enough.
- Martial law in Ukraine was imposed on February 24, 2022. The last time, as proposed by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, martial law was extended until August 23.
- has already written that it's forbidden to change the constitution during martial law.
- Moreover, martial law means elections are also prohibited, although they have to be held within the periods mandated by the Constitution.
- Hence, it’s not the first time that the Ukrainian legislation as a whole and the rules of martial law are conflicting. The question is, how will the government handle the issue.