Ukraine’s Parliament Passes Bill Allowing Some Convicts to Serve in the Army

Ukraine’s Parliament passed a bill on Wednesday that will allow some convicts to serve in the military in exchange for the possibility of parole at the end of their service, a move aimed at replenishing the army’s depleted ranks after more than two years of war.

The bill must still be signed into law by President Volodymyr Zelensky. It was not immediately clear if he would do so, given the sensitivity of the matter.

The policy echoes a practice used by Russia, which has committed tens of thousands of convicts to the war, allowing it to gain the upper hand in bloody assaults by sheer force of numbers. While Russia has enlisted all manner of prisoners, the Ukrainian bill says that those convicted of premeditated murder, rape or other serious offenses will not be eligible — although some lawmakers said involuntary manslaughter convictions could be considered.

Olena Shulyak, the leader of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, said that the decision to mobilize and parole a prisoner would be made by a court and would require the prisoner’s willingness to join the army.

“The only way to survive in an all-out war against an enemy with more resources is to consolidate all forces,” Ms. Shulyak wrote in a post on social media. “This draft law is about our struggle and preservation of Ukrainian statehood.”

Prisoners serving in the army would be integrated into special units for the duration of martial law, meaning that they would not be demobilized until the end of the war. Ms. Shulyak also told a Ukrainian news outlet that only prisoners with under three years left on their sentences would be eligible.

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