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Russian lawmakers push to allow foreigners with criminal records to serve in Russian military

by Dmytro Basmat January 13, 2024 4:55 AM 1 min read
Russian law enforcement guard the Red Square near the Kremlin on June 24, 2023 in Moscow, Russia, amid the Wagner Group's ongoing armed rebellion in Russia. (Contributor/Getty Images)
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Lawmakers from Russia's Tula Oblast have submitted a draft bill to the Russian State Duma to allow foreigners with a criminal record to serve in Russia's Armed Forces, the country's state-run news agency TASS reported on Jan. 12.

Regional lawmakers held an extraordinary meeting of the Tula Regional Duma on Friday to unanimously support draft legislation that would allow foreign citizens with criminal records to enter into military service contracts with Russia's Armed Forces. The legislation is now set to go to the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly, for consideration.

In an explanatory note, lawmakers of the draft bill did not distinguish between the severity of crimes committed, noting that under current legislation Russian citizens who have committed crimes of different severity can serve in the military.

The draft bill, which establishes an implementation deadline of March 1, is latest move in Russia's attempt to mobilize foreign recruits to fight in Ukraine while trying to suppress domestic anti-mobilization sentiments.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree allowing foreign nationals who join the Russian Armed Forces the ability to apply for Russian citizenship. Analysts have predicted that Putin will avoid decisions that irritate Russia's electorate ahead of the upcoming Russian presidential election, including the issue of mass mobilization, despite a dwindling number of recruits in Ukraine.

Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksii Danilov warned in November that Russia may begin full mobilization after the 2024 Russian presidential election.

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