Written by 10:09 World

Ukraine Starts Freeing Some Prisoners to Join Its Military

Ukraine has begun releasing prisoners to serve in its army, part of a wider effort to rebuild a military that has been depleted by more than two years of war and is strained by relentless Russian assaults.

Denys Maliuska, Ukraine’s justice minister, said in an interview on Friday that nearly 350 prisoners had already been freed under a law enacted last week that allows convicts to serve in the army in exchange for the possibility of parole at the end of their service.

The country’s courts must approve each prisoner’s bid to enlist, and Mr. Maliuska said that the judiciary was already considering most of the 4,300 applications submitted so far. Up to 20,000 such applicants, including people who were in pretrial detention, could be recruited to join the hundreds of thousands of soldiers already serving in Ukraine’s military, he said.

The policy echoes a practice widely used by Russia to bolster its forces, but differs in some ways. Russia’s program is open to prisoners convicted of violent crimes, while the Ukrainian law does not extend to people convicted of two or more murders, rape or other serious offenses.

Several Ukrainian lawmakers initially said that people convicted of premeditated murder would not be eligible. But Mr. Maliuska clarified on Friday that someone convicted of a single murder could be released, unless the crime was committed with aggravating circumstances such as sexual violence.

“There is some similarity, but I can’t say that this is the same as Russia did,” Mr. Maliuska said.

Ukraine had mocked Russia’s push to recruit prisoners in exchange for parole earlier in the war. But with the conflict now in its third year and with Ukrainian forces struggling all along the front line, Kyiv desperately needs more soldiers.

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Last modified: 28 May 2024
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