Almost 3,000 former inmates have joined Kiev’s military amid recruitment struggles FILE PHOTO. © AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

More than 2,750 convicts have been released from prison to join the Ukrainian military and help ease manpower shortages, the Washington Post reported on Sunday. Some service members, however, have voiced concerns about the reliability of former inmates.

Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky last month approved a bill that allows certain categories of convicts to be paroled if they agree to enlist in the military and fight Russia. Former inmates will be assigned to special high-risk assault units, although anyone convicted of crimes such as murdering more than two people, rape, terrorism, corruption, or undermining Ukraine’s national security, is ineligible for the program.

According to the Washington Post, many of the convicts joining the fight were “jailed for dealing drugs, stealing phones, and committing armed assaults and murders.” Ukrainian Justice Minister Denis Malyuska insisted to the newspaper that “the motivation of our inmates is stronger than our ordinary soldiers,” arguing that they are enlisting not only to be released, but also because they “want to protect their country and they want to turn the page.”

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Zelensky approves military enlistment of convicts

The minister also claimed there is “competition between military commanders” to recruit from prisons as they want to address manpower shortages.

Some disagree, however, and one unnamed official expressed concern about possible desertion by former inmates. “They’re all going to run like Forrest Gump,” he stated, adding that despite these misgivings, the measure is still necessary.

The official noted that he would prefer to see Ukraine lower the draft age to 18, which he said would allow Kiev to fill the ranks with young and fit soldiers, rather than convicts. He admitted, however, that this measure is unlikely anytime soon.

Malyuska said he expects at least 4,000 men to join the military in the first stage of recruitment. In May, he estimated the total number of convicts ready to enlist at between 10,000 to 20,000. However, the outlet cast doubt on those figures, pointing out that there are a total of 28,000 inmates in Ukraine, including women and those unfit for service. The outlet also claimed, citing its own poll, that very few are actually willing to volunteer.

Kiev has tried to address acute manpower shortages by passing two bills this spring, one of which lowered the draft age from 27 to 25, while the other significantly tightened mobilization rules. Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin estimated Ukraine’s monthly combat losses at 50,000 soldiers. (RT)