Ukraine Passes Bill Allowing Convicts to Join Army Amid Russian Invasion

Ukraine's parliament passes a bill allowing certain convicts to join the army and receive conditional release from prison sentences. The move aims to aid in Ukraine's defense against Russia's ongoing invasion, with up to 20,000 prisoners potentially being mobilized.

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Nitish Verma
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Ukraine Passes Bill Allowing Convicts to Join Army Amid Russian Invasion

Ukraine Passes Bill Allowing Convicts to Join Army Amid Russian Invasion

Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has passed a bill allowing certain convicts to join the army and receive conditional release from prison sentences, pending President Volodymyr Zelensky's signature. The move aims to aid in Ukraine's defense against Russia's ongoing invasion, as the country faces a dire situation on the battlefield with Russia'slatest offensiveexpanding the conflict along Ukraine's northern border.

Why this matters: This decision highlights the desperation of Ukraine's situation as it struggles to defend itself against Russia's aggression, and underscores the need for creative solutions to bolster its military capabilities. The move also raises questions about the potential consequences of releasing convicts into the military, and how it may impact the conflict's dynamics and outcome.

According to Justice Minister Denys Maliuska, between 10,000 and 20,000 prisoners and men with criminal records of conscript age could be mobilized. "I think ten thousand possibly would be involved [and sent into the armed forces – ed.], maybe a little bit more," Maliuska stated. The exact number will depend on how military medical commissions work in this context and the approaches taken.

The law, adopted on May 8, allows for the mobilization of convicts for the duration of the mobilization action and while martial law remains in effect. Convicted prisoners can join the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) only voluntarily and with court consent. They will undergo a medical examination in prison before proceeding to a center of recruitment and social support (TCC). Mobilization will be exclusively for those prisoners who have a sufficient level of physical preparation and are mentally healthy.

Military professionals and specialists believe that due to the strict provisions of the new law, no more than 10-20 thousand prisoners and former convicts will be mobilized. In comparison, Russia mobilized an estimated 100,000 convicts for the Wagner PMC alone. The recruitment screening process will be crucial to ensure that individuals with a history of violent crimes are not released to potentially do more harm.

The bill comes as Ukraine faces intensifying Russian attacks in the northeastern Kharkiv region, with thousands of Russian troops massed along the border. Ukrainian authorities anticipated the renewed offensive and rushed reinforcements to Kharkiv on Friday to hold off a Russian attempt to breach local defenses. Intense shelling targeted the Ukrainian city of Vovchansk, killing at least one civilian and wounding five others, prompting the evacuation of around 3,000 people. "The entire town is under massive shelling now. It is not safe to stay here," said Tamaz Hambarishvilim, administrative head of Vovchansk.

Ukraine had previously stated it was aware of Russia's plans to launch an attack in the northeast, with Ukrainian intelligence officials anticipating the tactical switch by Moscow for weeks. While Russia's recent ground offensives had been focused further south, Ukrainian authorities were prepared for an attack in the northeast. The move to allow convicts to join the army is seen by some as an opportunity for criminals to morally redeem themselves by fighting on the side of international law and morality in defense of their country against Russian aggression.