Poles fighting in Ukraine risk jail – media
Polish nationals currently serving in Ukraine’s International Legion of the Armed Forces and other divisions could face up to five years in prison when they return home, Polish news outlet Rzeczpospolita has reported, citing the country’s penal code.
According to the outlet, by the end of October, only 34 people had submitted applications for permission to serve in a foreign army. Of that amount, two applications were approved by the Defense Ministry, while 14 were greenlighted by the Ministry of Interior.
Yet dozens, if not hundreds, of Poles are fighting in Ukraine, Miroslaw Czech – a journalist, former MP and Ukrainian activist – told the outlet. Technically, they are breaking the law and could theoretically face conviction, the paper wrote on Thursday.
Wojciech Skurkiewicz, deputy head of Poland’s Ministry of National Defense, has however pointed out that the government does not see those fighting in Ukraine as lawbreakers. He suggested that those combatants are not violating Polish interests or interfering with the goals of the country’s armed forces, and this justifies an “exclusion of criminal liability.”
Some Polish lawmakers, however, have said a promise from the Defense Ministry is not enough to guarantee that fighters returning from Ukraine won’t be subjected to investigations, interrogations and persecution. Independent Senator Krzysztof Kwiatkowski suggested that the best protection for them would be a general amnesty, according to the newspaper. He has introduced draft legislation to this effect in the Polish parliament.
It’s estimated that as many as 1,200 Poles have died fighting in Ukraine as of late November, according to Polish media outlet Niezalezny Dziennik Polityczny, while thousands more have been injured.
On Thursday, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported that Moscow’s forces had destroyed a number of high-value targets with precision strikes, which also killed 90 Poles, who Moscow referred to as “mercenaries.”
Russia has repeatedly warned foreigners against traveling to Ukraine to fight alongside Kiev’s forces, stating that it would treat them as mercenaries, who would not be granted the status of prisoners of war as defined by the Geneva Convention.