Russia adopts law pardoning criminals who fight in Ukraine

Those convicted of crimes against “sexual integrity”, terrorism, high treason, espionage and other “particularly grave crimes” are exempt.

Russian lawmakers adopted a bill on Wednesday allowing ex-cons and those currently serving prison sentences to join the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The new measure, passed in the first reading, would expunge the criminal records of those participating in the Russian armed forces in future mobilisations, following their dismissal from service or “receiving an award”.

Until now, Russian law explicitly forbade the Ministry of Defence from entering into contracts with people who have an active criminal record or are incarcerated.

While reports indicate soldiers were being drawn from Russia’s extensive prison population to serve in Ukraine since at least the summer of last year – most of whom joined the Wagner mercenary group – this was done either extralegally or through secret presidential pardons.

Wagner stopped recruiting prisoners around February this year, who were asked to sign contracts with the defence ministry instead.

Read more