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Ukraine to call up 10,000 soldiers in new mobilization drive

A girl holds Ukrainian national flag during a welcoming ceremony of paratroopers, who returned from the frontline in Eastern regions, in Kiev, Ukraine, September 4, 2015. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine’s military will call up some 10,000 men and seek volunteers to replace some of the 45,000 soldiers who are due to return home after more than a year on the front lines in the separatist east, President Petro Poroshenko said on Tuesday.

A February 2015 ceasefire failed to completely halt the conflict with pro-Russian rebels that is entering its third year. Sixteen soldiers have been killed so far in March - the army’s highest monthly death toll since August, according to Reuters calculations based on military data.

Almost all Ukrainian men have to do at least one year of military service and can then be called up to fight until they reach 60 years of age.

But as well that compulsory mobilization, the government is trying to tempt them to volunteer for active duty, increasing salaries to at least 7,000 hryvnia ($275) per month, well above the minimum wage of around 1,400 hryvnia.

Around 13,000 servicemen have been signed up under such contracts this year, part of drive to build a professional army capable of withstanding what Ukraine sees as a long-standing threat from Russia.

“Next year I am sure there will be further (wage) growth to raise not only the moral but also the financial attractiveness of military service,” President Poroshenko said at a meeting with military personnel.

Around 250,000 men currently serve in the military across Ukraine. While it is illegal to dodge the compulsory mobilization drives, some potential recruits have done so by bribing officials or simply leaving the country.

Over 9,000 civilians and soldiers have been killed since fighting between Ukrainian troops and rebels seeking independence from Kiev erupted in April 2014.

Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Robin Pomeroy