Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) speaks to representatives of national public associations, after attending a flower-laying ceremony at the monument of Minin and Pozharsky at Red Square in Moscow, during National Unity Day in Moscow, Russia,on Friday. Photo by Kremlin POOL / UPI | License Photo
Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a law to conscript Russian citizens with criminal records into the military as the country mobilizes troops amid the war in Ukraine.
The Kremlin said in a statement that the law will now require most people who have unexpunged criminal convictions as well as those with outstanding criminal cases will be eligible for conscription.
Certain crimes will not be eligible for conscription, including those convicted of sexual crimes against children, crimes related to terrorism, the illegal handling of nuclear material, high treason and espionage.
The new law will make it possible for Russia to mobilize hundreds of thousands of troops.
Putin said in a speech Friday that 318,000 men had joined to fight in Ukraine since he announced a mobilization in the country in September, according to Radio Free Europe.
"As far as I know, 49,000 of those mobilized are already carrying out combat tasks, while the others are undergoing training," Putin said.
The partial mobilization comes as Russia has faced months of setbacks in their invasion of Ukraine.
In September, Putin signed a series of laws cracking down on military dissent and providing incentives for those who volunteer or are conscripted to serve amid his grinding war.
Russia strengthened the criminal liability for soldiers who commit "crimes against military service" include failing to follow orders and desertion during the "period of mobilization or martial law" or in wartime conditions.
Soldiers who commit such crimes can now 10 years in prison while those who commit "especially grave crimes" can have their imprisonment replaced with "forced labor or another milder form of punishment" after two-thirds of their prison sentence has been served.
Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky has repeatedly urged Russians to resist conscription or surrender to Ukrainian forces if they are not able to do so.
"No one in Russia will know that your surrender was voluntary," Zelensky said in September.
"If you are afraid to return to Russia and do not want an exchange, we will find a way to ensure this as well."