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10 Apr, 2024 16:46

Ukraine moves closer to drafting convicts

Lawmakers have been eager to allow inmates to serve on the frontline of Kiev’s armed conflict with Russia
Ukraine moves closer to drafting convicts

The Ukrainian parliament on Wednesday advanced the proposal to enable the mobilization of certain categories of convicted criminals. Those who join up may see their sentences reduced or commuted.

With no votes against and 281 in favor, proposal 11079-1 sailed through the Verkhovna Rada in the first reading, lawmaker Yaroslav Zheleznyak wrote on his Telegram channel.

As written, the bill allows courts to grant conditional parole to inmates serving sentences at correctional facilities, so they can enlist in the military.

Persons convicted of rape, sexual assault, murder of two or more persons, crimes against the national security of Ukraine, drunk driving that resulted in death of at least one person, corruption, terrorism or financing of terrorism would not be eligible.

However, Zheleznyak said he expected the second version of the bill would expand eligibility to those convicted of corruption and more “serious” crimes. 

The bill would also add a provision to the criminal code that evasion of military service by those paroled would be punishable by 5-10 years in prison.

Ukraine has had to rely on forced conscription to replenish its frontline units, due to a shortage of volunteers and a high number of battlefield casualties. In early February, prior to losing the Donbass stronghold of Avdeevka, several commanders told reporters that their units were already operating at 35% strength or less.

Though the government in Kiev insists only 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the conflict so far, some military commanders have privately admitted this number is ridiculous. According to recent estimates from the Russian Defense Ministry, Kiev has lost over 80,000 troops over the past two months alone.

Last week, President Vladimir Zelensky enacted changes to the draft, allowing the army to conscript 25-year-olds and abolishing several categories of exemptions from military service. However, certain categories of state employees have been given immunity for “critical” importance of their work – which apparently included several circus troupes, but not defense industry employees.

Meanwhile, Moscow is not facing a shortage of troops. The Russian Defense Ministry said recently that over 100,000 people have enlisted since the start of the year, including 16,000 in the aftermath of the Crocus City Hall terrorist attack. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks in December, there were 617,000 service members engaged in the Ukraine conflict, including 250,000 reservists called up in late 2022.

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