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Czechs to give impunity to nationals fighting for Ukraine

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Czech nationals will have the chance to join Ukraine's defence forces to battle Russia's invasion without fear of punishment at home, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on Thursday.

Under Czech law, it is illegal to join foreign armed forces without an exemption from the president who is the commander-in-chief of the Czech army. Violations are punishable by up to five years in prison.

CTK news agency reported this week at least 300 people had sought an exemption to answer Ukraine's call for foreign volunteers to fight Russia's invasion.

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Fiala said after talks with President Milos Zeman on Thursday they had agreed to guarantee impunity for people who join Ukraine forces, rather than sort through individual requests.

The Czech Republic has been a NATO member since 1999.

The invasion of Ukraine, the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two, has caused unease in the former Soviet-era satellite states in central Europe, many of which border Ukraine and have seen an influx of refugees.

It has also prompted growing interest in joining domestic armies. The Czech defence ministry has reported a several-fold increase in the number of potential army recruits.

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