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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy says fewer troops needed to fight

Published April 3, 2024last updated April 3, 2024

The Ukrainian president drew back from an earlier target of 500,000 additional troops needed to fend off Russia. Meanwhile, Russia said army recruitment has increased since the attack on Moscow.

President of Finland Alexander Stubb and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy during their press conference in Kyiv
Finland and Ukraine signed a 10-year security and support agreementImage: Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva/dpa/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

The Russian Defense Ministry has said that more than 100,000 people have enlisted to join the Russian military forces since the beginning of the year.

It said that some 16,000 had signed up in the past 10 days, citing the deadly attack on a concert hall in Moscow last month as the reason. Russia has blamed Ukraine for the attack which was claimed by so-called Islamic State.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has said it shot down another batch of Russian drones during an overnight attack.

Here are the main headlines from Russia's war in Ukraine on Wednesday, 3 April:

Skip next section Zelenskyy says Ukraine does not need 500,000 more troops
April 3, 2024

Zelenskyy says Ukraine does not need 500,000 more troops

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that Kyiv will not need to mobilize 500,000 additional troops.

Zelenskyy had initially spoken of a need to set of a target of half a million more recruits in December. Months later, Commander-in-Chief Oleksander Syrskyi said that the amount will be much lower, but did not provide a specific number.

"We do not need half a million," Zelenskyy said at a Wednesday press conference in Kyiv during a visit by Finnish President Alexander Stubb.

He said that Kyiv had sufficient soldiers to send to the front.

Zelenskyy recently signed a law reducing the age of mobilization from 27 to 25, expanding the pool of potential conscripts by 400,000.

Skip next section Finland, Ukraine sign 10-year security agreement
April 3, 2024

Finland, Ukraine sign 10-year security agreement

Ukraine and Finland have signed a long-term agreement on security co-operation.

Finland joined the NATO military alliance shortly after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, ending decades of miltiary non-alignment. Finland shares a 1,340 kilometer (830 mile) border with Russia.

The deal was signed as Finnish President Alexander Stubb was visiting Kyiv.

It will last 10 years and would oblige Finland to "continue to provide long-term military, political and financial support, as well as humanitarian assistance and civil protection support to Ukraine ... for as long as it takes."

Stubb also said that Finland was delivering a €180 million ($202 million) military aid package to Ukraine, including air defense and heavy ammunition.

"We're not giving this military support only for Ukraine to defend itself. We're giving this military support for Ukraine to win this war," he said.

Stubb said he did not have an issue with strikes on Russian oil refineries as "the only thing that Russian understands is power."

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the strikes.

Skip next section Ukraine lowers reservist conscription age
April 3, 2024

Ukraine lowers reservist conscription age

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signed legislation lowering the age at which reservists can be conscripted to the armed forces from 27 to 25.

The move, which Zelenskyy took nine months to make while considering the decision, could lead to tens of thousands of new soldiers serving as Ukraine battles a Russian invasion.

In view of the situation at the front, Zelenskyy had stated before the turn of the year that up to 500,000 additional soldiers would be needed. 

Based on the birth rates at the end of the 1990s, around 400,000 more men could now theoretically be called up for military service.

So far, only men aged 27 and over have been called up, although all men between the ages of 18 and 60 who are fit for military service are prohibited from leaving the country, with a few exceptions.

Skip next section 4 Russian drones intercepted, reports Ukraine
April 3, 2024

4 Russian drones intercepted, reports Ukraine

The Ukrainian military said on Wednesday morning that it shot down four drones in an attempted Russian overnight attack.

The Iranian-made Shahed drones were reportedly intercepted over the central Kirovohrad, Cherkasy, Khmelnytskyi and Zhytomyr regions.

The governor of the Kirovohrad region said the attack had still caused a fire which has since been extinguished.

Elsewhere, authorities in the Dnipro region said that 18 people were injured in a Russian missile attack which damaged four educational facilities and nine residential buildings on Tuesday.

Skip next section Russia says thousands have enlisted since the Moscow concert hall attack
April 3, 2024

Russia says thousands have enlisted since the Moscow concert hall attack

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that it had recorded a significant increase in the number of Russians signing up for military service this year, and especially since the attack on a concert hall in Moscow in March.

Since the start of the year, it claims that "more than 100,000 people" have enrolled in the Armed Forces, with "about 16,000" signing up to take part in the "special military operation" in the last ten days alone, the ministry said on social media platform Telegram.

"During interviews held over the past week at recruitment points in Russian cities, most candidates indicated a desire to avenge the victims of the tragedy that occurred on March 22, 2024 in the Moscow region as their main motivation to sign a contract," read a ministry statement, indirectly implicating Ukraine in the recent Crocus City Hall terrorist attack which left 144 concert-goers dead.

Kyiv has emphatically denied any involvement in the massacre, responsibility for which has been claimed by the so-called Islamic State. The suggestion from Russian President Vladimir Putin that the terrorists were planning to escape to Ukraine was contradicted by Moscow's own ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

According to the statement, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said the Russian Army plans to form fourteen new divisions by the end of 2024.

While Russia's reports on the boost to military enlistment could not be independently verified, Ukraine has also warned that Russian forces are building up ahead of an expected offensive push later this year.

mf/ab (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)