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Two months ago, Ukraine was widely criticized for "indoctrinating" its children after a video circulated through mainstream media that showed Ukrainian children handling military weapons as part of a program that is designed to prepare them for the military.
Given that Ukraine has been at war with Russia since last year, Ukrainian children have also been involved in weapons training, which has increased over the past several months and is expected to be expanded further after the city in eastern Ukraine fell to Russia's Wagner forces Saturday. The "Defense of Ukraine" program for children opened at the military-patriotic center in Lviv this month with dozens of other centers and training facilities for children expected to open across the country in the coming months.
Lviv, a city in western Ukraine has been a gathering center for children fleeing the war in the eastern part of the country and has now become somewhat of a recruitment center for young recruits by the government.
The larger concern is not so much the training itself as the hypocrisy of it. When Russia instituted weapons training for children it was seen as indoctrination but now that Ukraine has done it, the programs are being hailed as "patriotic."
Another concern regarding Ukraine's child training centers is that it could be indicative that the country is running out of soldiers and are desperately searching for new recruits to replace wounded or killed ones.
The reported fall of Bakhmut is a significant blow to Ukraine, but in recent weeks the media has reported that the country was making gains in the fallen city and suggested that the much-anticipated spring counteroffensive was finally underway, but evidence of such a counteroffensive has dwindled to almost nothing and now with the loss of Bakhmut appearing to be more than just inaccurate media reports but a new reality, things are looking bleak for Ukraine.
The situation is not helped when one considers that the battle for Bakhmut was won by Wagner, Russia's paramilitary group, not trained Russian forces. The perspective in the media is that NATO-trained troops lost in Bakhmut to a group of what has been described as an "army of convicts" run by a "restaurateur," suggesting that Ukraine lost Bakhmut to a paramilitary of misfits.
As the war drags into its second year and NATO continues to send billions of dollars worth of equipment, weapons, and ammunition to Kyiv, one can only question whether or not there will be any soldiers left to use the supplies being sent. In the meantime, teenagers are being trained to fill in the gaps.