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Ukraine Passes Parliament Law That Allows Prisoners To Fight In War Against Russia

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s Parliament passed a controversial law on Wednesday that enables some categories of prisoners to fight in the Russia-Ukraine war. The move is seen as a U-turn by Kyiv who earlier in the war had criticised Russia for recruiting prisoners.

“The parliament has voted yes,” MP Olena Shuliak, head of Zelenskyy’s party, said in a Facebook post. “The draft law opens the possibility for certain categories of prisoners who expressed a desire to defend their country to join the Defence Forces,” she added.

The legislation would need to be signed by the chairperson of parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, before coming into force.

According to an Al Jazeera report, the law has made clear that those who are not eligible to serve include those found guilty of sexual violence, killing two or more people, serious corruption and former high-ranking officials. Shuliak confirmed that only those prisoners with under three years left to serve on their sentence may apply, she said. Any prisoners who are mobilised would be granted parole rather than a pardon.

But while the Ukrainian government may be happy, others aren’t. The organisation Protection for Prisoners of Ukraine, which had lobbied for a measure allowing prisoners to fight, said that they were disappointed with the adopted text of the law, which they saw as “discriminatory.”

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NGO head Oleg Tsvily said that there were two points in the law that particularly troubled him. The first was a lack of rights for prisoners who, according to him, were being denied leave and told to fight till the war ended, something that could be much longer that their sentences. The other point was the possibility of abuse of prisoners who he believed would be “commanded like meat” due to their lack of rights.

“It’s like in Russia – redemption by blood. … Anyone willing to fight will be put in one unit and commanded like meat,” he said.

With Ukraine fast losing men and Russia gaining the upper hand, some questionable moves have been made by the Ukrainian government, to get its citizens to fight. The most recent move is a bid to coerce the Ukrainian diaspora of fighting age by denying them consular rights unless they come to the frontline.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said in a statement.“How it looks like now: A man of conscription age went abroad, showing his state that he does not care about its survival, and then comes and wants to receive services from this state,”. “It does not work this way. Our country is at war.”

(Reuters and other agencies)