Ukrainian prisoners with combat experience will be released from jail and allowed to serve their debt to society on the front lines of the conflict with Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Monday.
Ukraine’s leader, who has gained praise from around the globe for his response to Russian aggression, said inmates will be able to ‘compensate for their guilt in the hottest spots’, in a presidential video address this morning.
‘Under martial law, Ukrainians with real combat experience will be released from custody and will be able to compensate for their guilt in the hottest spots of the conflict,’ Zelensky said.
‘We have taken a decision which is not easy from the moral point of view, but which is useful from the point of view of our defences.
‘The key is now defence.’
Zelensky also made an appeal to the European Union to grant his country ‘immediate’ membership as part of a special procedure in the face of the Russian assault.
The Ukrainian leader released his latest video statement as Russian and Ukrainian negotiators prepared to sit down for their first face-to-face talks since Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered troops to invade last Thursday.
‘We appeal to the European Union for the immediate accession of Ukraine via a new special procedure,’ the 44-year-old leader said in a new video address.
‘Our goal is to be together with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be on an equal footing. I’m sure it’s fair. I’m sure it’s possible.’
Zelensky also urged Russian soldiers to lay down their weapons during the video address.
‘Abandon your equipment. Get out of here. Don’t believe your commanders. Don’t believe your propagandists. Just save your lives,’ Zelensky said.
He claimed that more than 4,500 Russian soldiers had already lost their lives during the Kremlin’s assault.
Russian authorities have admitted their forces have sustained casualties but have not yet given an official death toll.
Zelensky rounded off the presidential address on the fifth day of the Russian invasion by thanking the West for its support.
‘Support of our anti-war coalition is unconditional and unprecedented. Each of us is a warrior. And I am sure that each of us will win,’ he said.