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Ukraine approves bill allowing prisoners to join armed forces amid manpower shortage

Ukraine approves bill allowing prisoners to join armed forces amid manpower shortage
By Yagiz Efe Parmaksiz
May 8, 2024 6:22 PM

Ukraine’s parliament passes a law allowing inmates to join the military forces as a crucial step to strengthen the country’s defensive capabilities

Ukraine’s parliament passed a measure Wednesday allowing some inmates to enroll in the military forces.

This move is a crucial step toward strengthening the country’s defensive capabilities. Despite rising tensions with Russia, the country faces a major personnel shortfall on the front lines.

Previously opposed to such tactics and critical of Moscow’s habit of mobilizing detainees to strengthen its ranks, Kyiv has changed its mind in light of recent Russian advances on the battlefield.

The law, awaiting final approval from the chairwoman of parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, and President Volodymyr Zelensky, aims to address the urgent need for extra soldiers. MP Olena Shuliak, the leader of Zelensky’s party, confirmed the situation in a Facebook post, writing, “The parliament has voted ‘yes.'”

Under the proposed legislation, certain groups of offenders who indicate a willingness to protect their nation would be eligible to join the Defence Forces. However, involvement would be voluntary and limited to specified categories of convicts.

Individuals convicted of sexual assault, several killings, primary corruption, or being a previous high-ranking official would be disqualified to serve, according to Shuliak. Furthermore, only convicts who had fewer than three years left on their sentences would be able to apply. Those convicts who are deployed would get parole rather than a pardon.

Despite the bill’s passing, certain groups have worried about its features. Protection for Inmates of Ukraine, an advocacy group that had advocated for inmates to participate in defense activities, voiced dissatisfaction with several sections of the accepted document.

“We support the idea behind the law… but the text passed is discriminatory,” said Oleg Tsvily, a nongovernmental-organization (NGO) chairman. He emphasized the elimination of leave for combat inmates and voiced concerns about the length of their duty, which may stretch beyond their terms.

Tsvily also warned against forming “special units” for mobilized soldiers, saying it would lead to prisoner mistreatment. Drawing comparisons with the Wagner mercenary group’s documented methods in Russia, he compared the situation to “redemption by blood,” in which willing fighters are regarded as disposable resources.

Russia has a history of enlisting inmates to fight on the front lines, promising presidential pardons in return for military service. Individuals like Yevgeny Prigozhin were essential in enlisting inmates for paramilitary activity early in the invasion, and the practice spread quickly.

Source: AFP

Last Updated:  Jun 3, 2024 4:59 PM