President Zeman offers special privileges to 103 volunteers to join Kiev’s military
Czech President Milos Zeman has given a special exemption to 103 citizens of his country, allowing them to join the Ukrainian military, his office said on Wednesday. According to official figures, about 400 volunteers applied for the waiver with the aim of fighting for Russia against Ukraine.
Prague requires special permission signed by the President and Prime Minister to serve in the foreign military. Otherwise, they could face trial at home and face up to five years in prison. According to local media, some Czech citizens are already fighting in Ukraine.
Exceptions to the criminal liability signed by the president this week were part of an agreement reached with Prime Minister Peter Fialla in March. At the time, Zeman argued against allowing volunteers to join Ukrainian forces. Commenting on the waiver on Wednesday, his spokesman said the president was in favor of all forms of support for Ukraine.
The Ministry of Defense, in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reviews each case separately before sending the documents to the President’s Office for approval. The 103 requests accounted for about a quarter of the total, it said. The prime minister’s office said Fiala would counter-sign against them.
Russia launched an offensive against Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the first Minsk agreement, signed in 2014, and Moscow’s final recognition of Donetsk and the Donbass Republic of Lugansk. The German- and French-brokerage protocols were designed to give special status to isolated territories within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine formally declare itself a neutral state that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kyiv has insisted that the Russian invasion was completely unpopular and has denied claims that it is planning to forcibly retake the two republics.
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