Putin Signs Law Allowing Those Who've Committed Serious Crimes To Join Military

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law allowing the military mobilization of people who have committed serious crimes as the Kremlin continues to amass troops for its war in Ukraine amid several recent setbacks.

Speaking to members of youth and volunteers organizations in Moscow on November 4, Putin said 318,000 men had joined to fight since he announced a mobilization in the country in September, including 18,000 who were volunteers.

Putin's speech came the same day as his signing of a law opening up mobilization for people with unsealed criminal records, including those who committed serious crimes, excluding those convicted of child sex abuse, treason, spying, or terrorism.

"As far as I know, 49,000 of those mobilized are already carrying out combat tasks, while the others are undergoing training," Putin said.

Russia initially occupied wide swathes of Ukraine following its full-scale invasion in February but has for months suffered significant troop and territorial losses due largely to a two-pronged Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The setbacks, which have left Russia trying to hold the line in parts of southern and eastern Ukraine that it still occupies and claims as its own, have forced the Kremlin to introduce a military draft and to increasingly rely on mercenaries and Chechen troops to replenish its depleted forces.

Putin's associate and the leader of the Vagner private military group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, reportedly has recruited thousands of inmates from Russian prisons for the war in Ukraine.

Putin said on November 4 that the flow of volunteers for the war effort continues, despite many signs of the general mobilization's unpopularity.

Tens of thousands of Russian men fled the country immediately after the announcement of the mobilization, while sporadic protests -- quickly stamped out by security agents -- were seen in many parts of Russia.

Meanwhile, dozens of videos showed those who were mobilized complaining about a lack of food, clothes, equipment, and housing facilities.

Some complained that they had never served in military forces but were recruited anyway, while Putin said that only Russians who served in the army and have combat experience would be mobilized.

Soldiers based in the city of Ulyanovsk on November 4 confirmed to RFE/RL that almost 2,000 soldiers mobilized from Russia's Republic of Chuvashia were allowed to visit home after they rebelled, demanding overdue payments for the service.

Local authorities in the Russian regions of Vladimir, Rostov, Samara, Buryatia, and Bashkortostan have forced students of local schools and universities to sew military uniforms for Russian soldiers.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Idel.Realities, SOTA, TASS, Serditaya Chuvashia, and Interfax