Summary of Russia’s war in Ukraine this Wednesday, February 21

As Russia advances, Ukraine needs more troops. But expanding mandatory military service is controversial

Antonina and her 3-year-old son Sasha took part in a protest in Kiev, Ukraine, demanding a deadline on the mobilization of troops.  (Photo: Daria Tarasova-Markina/CNN).

Antonina and her 3-year-old son Sasha took part in a protest in Kiev, Ukraine, demanding a deadline on the mobilization of troops.
(Photo: Daria Tarasova-Markina/CNN).

When the sirens sounded, the small group of women thought of ending their protest. But even though Kiev was again being attacked with missiles, they pressed ahead. Antonina brought her 3-year-old son Sasha with her.

The little boy said, “My father is not coming home. We are waiting for him. I am waiting for my father to come back.”

Holding a sign that read: “Reasonable deadline for demobilization,” Antonina said her husband served in a mortar unit near Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. He has not seen her for five months and tries to convince Sasha of his absence.

“I tell my son that his dad is working, that he’s in the army, that he’s making money.”

The period of mobilization is currently uncertain, with no regulatory time limit. Antonina’s husband had been recruited as a volunteer two years earlier, just after the full-scale Russian invasion. Now, at 43, he has served a long time, he told CNN.

“It’s hard for my husband to stay in the field for so long, dodging all the projectiles and doing everything he’s supposed to do on the front lines,” she said.

Inside the heavily guarded parliament building in Kiev, a stone’s throw from where the women stood, lawmakers debated reforming Ukraine’s mobilization rules. A new law may be passed in a matter of weeks, which is expected to pave the way for a significant increase in the number of recruitments.

Ukraine’s labor shortage in the war with Russia is once again at the top of the agenda and reflects how the mood has changed in the country.

Before last year’s retaliatory attack, Ukraine was confident. “It’s time to take back what is ours,” Valery Zaluzny, then Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, was seen in a highly produced video published on the Telegram channel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Expectations were high that the task of driving the invaders back from Russia, which had begun so successfully in the summer of 2022, could be resumed and perhaps even completed by the end of 2023.

But Ukraine failed to make significant progress, as Russian defenses proved too difficult to defeat and drones came to dominate the battlefield. According to the London think tank, through 2023, Russia – a country with three times more people than Ukraine – will increase the number of its troops in the occupied territories by almost a third.

In recent weeks, the news has been getting worse for Kyiv. Moscow’s forces are advancing on several locations on the eastern front and in the early hours of Saturday, commanders announced they had withdrawn from Avdiivka, an industrial town in the southeast.

The feeling now is that not only new troops will have to move forward, but more troops will have to move forward.

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