Russia amends law to boost forces fighting in Ukraine

A photograph taken on October 24, 2022 shows a poster displaying Russian soldiers with a slogan reading ‘Army of Russia – Army of professionals’ decorating a street in Moscow. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP)

Moscow, Russia | AFP |

The Russian parliament on Thursday passed a law allowing ex-convicts to be mobilised into the army and other measures to prop up Moscow’s troops in Ukraine.

Last month President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of reservists in the country to boost his Ukraine military campaign.

People who were released from prison but hold a criminal record for serious crimes can now be mobilised into the Russian armed forces.

The decree introducing mobilisation previously banned the recruitment of such ex-convicts.

The change does not apply to people convicted of sexual assault against a minor, terrorist acts, traffic of radioactive material or crimes against the government, including treason and espionage.

The parliament, or Duma, also passed legislation reinforcing the status of people voluntarily supporting the Russia army during mobilisation, in times of war, counter-terrorist operations, or abroad.

“In terms of status, volunteers will be equal to our servicemen under contract,” said Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.

“It is only fair: they protect our country,” he said, according to a statement on the Duma website.

The law will regulate “material and technical protection measures for volunteer groups and define social protections for them and their families,” according to the statement.

Both bills will need to be approved by the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, before Putin can sign them into law.

More than 200,000 people have joined the Russian armed forces since mobilisation was announced, the defence ministry said in early October.

But after some public outrage over students, older or sick people being mistakenly ordered to report for duty, Putin ordered that mistakes be “corrected”.

Putin ordered the establishment of a special coordination council headed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to cover the needs of the armed forces during mobilisation.