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Prisoners in Ukraine with combat experience will be released from jail to help defend against Russia

Lamiat Sabin
Monday 28 February 2022 17:00 GMT
Ukrainian parliament member says country ‘will not surrender’

Ukrainian prisoners with military experience will be released if they are willing to fight against Russian forces, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said.

In an address to the people of Ukraine on Monday, he said that everyone who can “join the struggle against the invaders must do so” and that the country is dedicating “every minute” to fighting Russia’s invasion.

His comments came as diplomats from Ukraine and Russia met on the Belarusian border to discuss a ceasefire.

Mr Zelensky confirmed that those with previous combat experience would be released to help with the “struggle for our state.”

He said: “Ukrainians with real combat experience will be released from custody and will be able to compensate for their guilt in the hottest spots.

“All sanctions against some individuals who participated in the Anti-Terrorist Operation will be lifted. The key thing now is defence.”

The decision was difficult to make from a moral standpoint but was crucial “in terms of our protection,” he added.

Mr Zelensky said: “When I went to the presidency, I said that each of us is the president. Because we are all responsible for our country. For our beautiful Ukraine.

“And now it has happened that each of us is a warrior. And I am sure that each of us will win.”

The Ukrainian president also called on Vladimir Putin’s troops to lay down their weapons and leave Ukraine, in warning that thousands of Russian soldiers have been killed since the invasion was launched on Thursday.

The map shows the extent of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Press Association Images)

Mr Zelensky said: “Abandon your equipment. Get out of here. Don’t believe your commanders. Don’t believe your propagandists. Just save your lives.”

Approximately 5,300 Russian troops have been killed while 191 tanks, 29 fighter jets, 29 helicopters and 816 armoured personnel carriers have also been destroyed by their armed forces, Ukrainian defence ministry officials claimed in a Facebook post.

A fragment of a destroyed Russian tank is seen on the roadside on the outskirts of Kharkiv (AFP via Getty Images)

At least 102 Ukrainian civilians, including at least 16 children, have been killed and 304 injured – according to the latest tolls revealed by the UN’s high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet.

The real figures are feared to be “considerably higher”, she said.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been displaced, and the vast majority of them have fled to Poland.

Also in his address, Mr Zelensky urged the European Union to allow Ukraine to immediately join the bloc in arguing that it would put Ukrainians on “an equal footing” with other Europeans.

Mr Zelensky said: “I’m sure it’s fair. I’m sure it’s possible.”

A photo of the president signing an EU application form has been posted on Ukrainian parliament’s Twitter account.

The move to sign the EU application was made on the fifth day of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Meanwhile, Russian forces have continued firing over residential areas in the northeastern city of Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second largest metropolis – and have killed dozens and wounded hundreds of people, the Ukrainian military said.

Fighting took place throughout Sunday night and Monday morning around the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the head of the Donetsk regional administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said.

But Mr Kyrylenko did not say whether Russian forces had gained or lost ground.

The cities of Zhytomyr and Chernihiv – in northern Ukraine – and Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine were also bombed overnight, according to reports.

But Putin’s forces have not succeeded so far in their attempts to capture the capital Kyiv.

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