More than 3,000 Ukrainian prisoners want to serve in the army

More than 3,000 people imprisoned in Ukraine have applied to join the armed forces, an official quoted by AFP said.

The applications come under a new law aimed at mobilizing more fighters to combat the Russian invasion.

"This applies to more than 3,000 people. We made this assessment before the law was passed," Olena Vysotskaya, deputy justice minister, told Ukrainian television.

"We can't say that the potential 20,000 people we mentioned will sign up," she added.

In early May, Ukrainian lawmakers passed a law signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky that allows certain categories of prisoners to go to the front to fight in exchange for parole.

This measure applies to prisoners who voluntarily want to go, and requires the consent of military authorities after a review of the prisoner's physical and mental health.

It would not apply to prisoners convicted of certain serious crimes, including the intentional killing of more than two people, sexual assault, crimes against national security, or convictions for corruption.

According to the text, only prisoners who are to serve less than three years will be able to make such a request, and they will serve in special army units.

After more than two years of resistance to a very deadly invasion, Ukraine is experiencing a shortage of soldiers and weapons in the face of the larger Russian army.

In April, Kiev also passed controversial legislation on military mobilization that aims to make it easier to join the army and impose greater penalties on those who do not enlist. It lowered the minimum age for mobilization from 27 to 25.

The director of the Ukrainian NGO Protection of Prisoners in Ukraine, Oleg Tsvili, said in May that he feared Ukrainian prisoners would become "meat" sent to fight without attention, "as in Russia."

In Russia, the Wagner paramilitary has recruited tens of thousands of prisoners from Russian prisons since 2022, who have then been exterminated in extremely deadly attacks, especially during the Battle of Bakhmut. / BGNES