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Ukraine recruits prisoners to bolster army as Russian strikes intensify

Ex-convicts doing military training in the Dnipropetrovsk region.
Ex-convicts doing military training in the Dnipropetrovsk region. Copyright EBU
Copyright EBU
By Euronews with EBU & AP
Published on Updated
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The latest updates from the war in Ukraine.


In a bid to find new recruits for its armed forces in the face of a continued Russian offensive, the Ukrainian army has turned to recruiting prisoners — and already around 3,000 have signed up.

Provided they see their term of military service through to its agreed end, prisoners will be granted parole when the war is over.

Ukraine has been struggling to recruit enough soldiers. Its population of 38 million pales in comparison to Russia’s 144 million; there have also been heavy losses on Ukraine’s front line, and those who have survived are outnumbered and increasingly exhausted.

The new law aims to mobilise another several hundred soldiers, but the process could take months.

Ex-convicts line up for food at military training camp.
Ex-convicts line up for food at military training camp.EBU

Russian bombardment intensifies

Russia has accelerated its destruction of Ukraine’s frontline cities in 2024 to a scale previously unseen in the war using glide bombs and an expanding network of airstrips, according to an Associated Press analysis of drone footage, satellite imagery, Ukrainian documents and Russian photos.

The results can be measured by the speed and intensity of recent Russian attacks.

It took a year for Russia to obliterate Bakhmut, where the bombs were first used. That was followed by destruction in Avdiivka that took months. 

Yet only weeks were needed to do the same in Vovchansk and Chasiv Yar, according to images analysed that showed the smouldering ruins of both cities.

“The greatest strategic advantage Russia has over Ukraine is its advantage in the sky,” Zelenskyy said last week. “This is missile and bomb terror that helps Russian troops advance on the ground.”

Epicenter shopping complex in Kharkiv, Ukraine, devastated after a Russian glide bomb strike.
Epicenter shopping complex in Kharkiv, Ukraine, devastated after a Russian glide bomb strike.Evgeniy Maloletka/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

Ukraine is also struggling to meet electricity demand thanks to systematic air attacks on its power infrastructure that have intensified since March, forcing utilities to ration household supplies over the last three months.

The country’s top officials repeatedly called on allied countries to provide more air defence systems to protect its power plants from Russian missiles and drones, but tangible damage had already been inflicted.

Zelenskyy remains positive

Despite Russia's continued assault and the problems facing his military, Zelenskyy said on Thursday that Ukraine is "now capable of defeating Russia's imperial ambitions."

In his presidential speech Zelenskyy said winning the war against Russia "will bring peace and confidence back to our entire Europe".

He also thanked Romania for the decision to transfer a US-made Patriot system to Ukraine, adding that his team is working "to secure the delivery of several more Patriots."

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