Ukraine orders release of first prisoners to serve in the military

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Ukraine has started releasing the first prisoners to serve in its armed forces under a new scheme offering parole to convicts prepared to fight, a regional court said Wednesday.

Kyiv said more than 3,000 inmates had applied to join the military since a law paving the way for their recruitment was passed earlier this month.

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The move comes with Kyiv struggling for troops on the front lines, and echoes a similar approach in Russia, where tens of thousands of prisoners have been sent to Ukraine on the promise of amnesty since Moscow invaded in February 2022.

A court in the western city of Khmelnytsky said it had ruled on Tuesday that two men, one born in 2000 and the other in 1981, both convicted of theft, could be released on parole to join the country’s National Guard.

“The court granted their petitions and ordered the Khmelnytsky Detention Centre to release the men from their sentences on parole for contracted military service immediately,” it said in a statement published Wednesday.

“Each of the men is fit for military service on health grounds, has passed a professional and psychological selection, and has a sufficient level of physical fitness,” the court added.

They will be placed under supervision and banned from staying away from their military unit or travelling for personal businesses without their commander’s permission.

Only prisoners with fewer than three years left on their sentence can apply for the scheme, designed to boost troop numbers with Ukraine’s stretched forces struggling on the front lines.

Ukraine’s mobilized prisoners are granted parole rather than a pardon, as has been the case in Russia.

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The Russian system has been mired in scandal, with multiple reports of freed prisoners going on to commit violent crimes, including murder, once pardoned after surviving their military service.

Ukraine has banned criminals found guilty of sexual violence, killing two or more people, serious corruption and former high-ranking officials from serving.

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Over 3,000 Ukrainian inmates seek to join military, Kyiv says

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