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Zelensky Signs Bill Allowing Prisoners to Enlist in Ukrainian Army, revises Article 1, Section 6.

New law by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky permits incarcerated individuals and foreigners to join military for parole, but excludes serious offenders and corrupt officials.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has enacted a new law permitting incarcerated individuals to enlist in the military as a pathway to parole. This legislation also extends the opportunity to foreigners and stateless individuals to join the Ukrainian army, as outlined in the revised Article 1, Section 6.

The law includes specific exclusions, preventing those convicted of severe offenses, such as rape or multiple murders committed under particularly heinous circumstances, from enlisting. However, eligible convicts must satisfy the standard military service requirements, including passing a preliminary medical examination as mandated by Article 154 before applying for parole in this context.

The bill signed by Zelensky underwent amendments to address concerns raised by the Ukrainian NGO Corruption Action Centre, which feared that corrupt officials might exploit this law to avoid prison by substituting their sentence with military service. Consequently, officials convicted of corruption are now barred from benefiting from this provision.

Additionally, the bill by Zelensky’s government initially contained a demobilization clause, which has since been removed, causing disappointment among its proponents in the Ukrainian parliament. This removal leads to uncertainty regarding the duration of service for conscripted convicts, leaving organizations like Protection for Prisoners cautious about endorsing the new law. The unresolved question is whether those granted military-based parole will be required to serve until the war’s end.

Furthermore, the amended Criminal Code Article 336 specifies penalties for convicts who agree to military service but subsequently evade their duties. Such individuals could face an additional prison term of five to ten years.

While this legislation by Zelensky’s government opens new avenues for parole through military service, it also raises significant concerns and uncertainties, particularly regarding the duration of service and the potential for exploitation by corrupt officials. The effectiveness and fairness of this approach will be closely watched as it unfolds.

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