(QHA) -

The Ukrainian army is essentially a ‘NATO legion’ which doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine, but persists to restrict Russia, President Vladimir Putin says, RT informs.

Putin indicated he was referring to volunteer battalions fighting within the Ukrainian Army during a speech to university students in St. Petersburg on January 26,. 

"Essentially, it is not the army at all but a foreign legion -- in this case it is a foreign NATO legion, whose goal has nothing to do with the national interests of Ukraine," he said.

Putin claimed that "many" Ukrainian men were trying to "dodge the mobilization" and sought to leave for Russia.

He added: "And they are doing the right thing because they are simply being used there [in eastern Ukraine] as cannon fodder."

Putin said the period of stay in Russia could be increased for Ukrainian citizens, primarily those of conscription age.