Putin send criminals to Ukraine instead of prison in desperate bid for troops

Russian soldiers may be exempt from criminal prosecution if they take part in the “special military operation” in Ukraine, the country’s Supreme Court has decreed.

The decision was made following the effective acquittal of a Russian corporal who fatally ran over two people in May 2022.

It is the latest in a series of moves by the Russian authorities to encourage participation in the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Russian courts will now be able to cite a defendant’s involvement in military operations as mitigating circumstances and grounds for reviewing sentences, according to the corporal’s lawyer Sergei Bizyukin.

Legal experts told Russian media outlet Kommersant that Russian courts could now use both the new law and the Supreme Court precedent in Ustinov’s case to free criminally convicted soldiers who serve in Ukraine.

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The case of Corporal Vladislav Ustinov has been viewed as the legal precedent for this new ruling.

Instead of being dismissed from the military following his conviction, Ustinov was sent to fight in Ukraine, where Kommersant says he is still serving.

Last May, a military court in Khabarovsk, a city in southeast Russia by the Chinese border, declared Ustinov guilty of a traffic violation and sentenced him to two years in a minimum-security prison.

The decision was confirmed by two more courts before the Board of the Armed Forces for military personnel intervened in the case, referring it to the Supreme Court.

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Last month, a law was passed allowing the acquittal of Russian soldiers in Ukraine for minor crimes.

According to the law, convicts who had signed a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defence would be released early from their sentences.

A concurrent law has been decreed that a person who has committed a crime of small or medium gravity should be acquitted on their charges if it is established that, due to a change in the situation, this person or the crime committed by him ceased to be socially dangerous.

Used in tandem, the Supreme Court ruled that Ustinov’s service in Ukraine amounted to a “change in situation” and that he should be the first to be acquitted of his crimes pursuant to the new law.

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The ruling reported that Ustinov is now “performing combat missions in the zone of a special military operation” and has been “described by command as a serviceman who shows courage, dedication and a high level of professional training”.

They concluded that as a result of these findings, Ustinov “has ceased to be socially dangerous and is subject to release from punishment”.

While the Kremlin has a history of employing convicts to fight in Ukraine – its now-public affiliation with the Wagner Group, who routinely hired from Russian penal colonies, aside – this new law further opens up the recruiting pool for Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation”.

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