The Verkhovna Rada allowed the release of convicts who are ready to join the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Is it like in Russia? Will the corrupt also go free? We answer briefly

Dmytro Rayevskyi
Kateryna Kobernyk
The Verkhovna Rada allowed the release of convicts who are ready to join the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Is it like in Russia? Will the corrupt also go free? We answer briefly

Jailors monitor prisoners walking along the corridor of Lukyanivska prison in Kyiv, July 6, 2018.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

On May 8, 2024, the Verkhovna Rada adopted draft law No. 11079-1, which allows the voluntary mobilization of prisoners. Now it must be signed by the Speaker of the Parliament and the President. The new law allows those convicted of various crimes to apply for parole on the condition that they automatically sign a contract with the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The Center for Countering Corruption NGO criticized the draft law from the beginning for the fact that, in essence, it allows corrupt officials to avoid punishment by enlisting in the army. Amendments were made to the project before the second reading — now there are restrictions on corruption crimes. But the CCC says that these restrictions are not enough. Babel tells what the essence of the new law is, which of the prisoners can mobilize and under what conditions, and why anti-corruption activists criticize this law.

Will all convicts be able to serve in the Armed Forces of Ukraine under this law?

No, not all of them. The law contains a list of convicts for whom there is no such option. These are3 people convicted for:

  • crimes against national security;
  • intentional killing of two or more people, or killing with particular cruelty, or combined with rape or sexual violence;
  • especially serious corruption crimes;
  • crimes against sexual freedom and integrity;
  • crimes related to terrorism;
  • violation of traffic safety rules while intoxicated, if it caused the death of several people;
  • murder or attempted murder of a law enforcement officer or military officer;
  • convicted civil servants who had a particularly responsible position according to clause 1 part 3 of the note to article 368 of the Criminal Code.

Convicts must also pass a medical examination, psychological screening and have a certain level of physical fitness. The maximum age is 57 years.

There were no clauses about civil servants and corruption in the first version of the draft law. They were added after the Center for Countering Corruption stated that top corrupt officials would be able to avoid punishment with the help of such a law — to sign a contract with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and then, thanks to corrupt connections, serve in safe positions or not actually serve at all. The anti-corruption committee of the Verkhovna Rada had similar comments.

Well, they added it. So everything is fine now?

Not everything all. The current text of the draft law actually prohibits the release for military service of only a part the convicted civil servants — senior management. For example, the Prosecutor General or a judge of the Supreme Court, if they find themselves in prison for corruption, will not be able to serve. And in general, judges and prosecutors will be able to. Likewise, the law does not apply to employees of the Presidentʼs Office. In addition, the Criminal Procedural Code says that the law allows all private participants in corruption schemes to be freed and serve, if their crime is not particularly serious.

For example, businessman Ihor Kolomoisky will not be able to mobilize, because he is accused of particularly serious crimes. But judge Pavlo Vovk will be able to, because the District Administrative Court of Kyiv, which he headed, does not belong to the higher specialized courts.

Letʼs return to the service of convicts. Will they serve with other military personnel?

No. The law provides that they will serve in the relevant specialized units. But how exactly they will function, whether these units will be 100% formed from ex-convicts — it is not yet known, the law completely transfers this issue to the Ministry of Defense.

Babelʼs interlocutor in the Ministry of Defense says that after the law is adopted, they, together with the Ministry of Justice, will develop the norms by which such units will function.

What does the law say about repeat offenders? Not taking murderers and rapists is understandable. And if a person is a professional thief?

The law says nothing about it. In addition to the fact that the decision on parole is made by the court, which can reject such a request. And there must be a representative of the institution where the convict served his sentence at the court, who can give him a certain description.

Are there any restrictions in the law for those who have been released on the basis of military service and are already in military service?

Yes. Like all parolees, they remain under administrative supervision — it is conducted by the commander of the military unit. The military unit must have a separate record of such servicemen. In addition, they are not entitled to annual leave, only for family reasons up to 10 days a year and for medical treatment.

And if this convict escapes already during the service?

He or she will be caught, and if caught, he will receive a new term in prison, from 5 to 10 years.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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