Kiev reveals how many military weapons it has handed out to civilians
The Ukrainian authorities have distributed tens of thousands of assault rifles to civilians, Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky revealed in an interview on Tuesday. The decision was part of a policy aimed at turning the Ukrainian public into a resistance force against Russian troops attacking the country.
The Ukrainian government started handing out arms usually reserved for trained personnel such as soldiers and police officers in late February, days after the Russian attack began. In an interview this week, the minister said the option of receiving an assault rifle remains open to citizens.
“Any Ukrainian citizen may go to the police, prove he actually works to defend Ukraine … and get a weapon accordingly. We are talking about automatic weapons first and foremost. We have distributed several tens of thousands of assault rifles throughout the country,” Monastyrsky said.
The official added that the policy of arming the public has contributed to Ukraine’s ability to “hold back the enemy for three weeks.”
The Russian military says it has refrained from trying to capture major Ukrainian cities using full force, to avoid unnecessary casualties among civilians. Moscow claims it is only attacking military targets.
Coinciding with the decision to arm civilians, Kiev announced it would set free combat-experienced felons who agree to take up arms and fight against the Russians.
A follow-up law passed by the Ukrainian parliament last week allows Ukrainian nationals and foreign citizens to use without legal repercussions any firearms in their possession against “individuals conducting armed aggression” against the country.
Under international law, people living under conditions of war should be divided into combatants and noncombatants, with both groups enjoying various privileges under the Geneva Conventions.
Combatant members of organized militias should wear distinctive signs identifying them as such and carry their arms openly. Otherwise the protections do not apply.