Ukraine Bill Makes it Legal for Anyone to Kill Russian Soldiers

Ukraine has reportedly passed legislation which legalizes the right of its civilians to kill invading Russian soldiers.

A screenshot of the apparent decree signed by President Volodomyr Zelensky was tweeted by Kyiv Independent journalist Ilya Ponomarenko on Thursday.

"A new bill officially makes it totally legal for civilians to kill Russian military personnel deployed to Ukraine," he wrote.

A translation of the decree, which is dated March 3, was circulated on social media and was said to go into effect "following the day of its publication."

Article One of the order stated that civilians "may participate in repelling and deterring armed aggression by the Russian Federation."

The decree said civilians who get weapons will effectively have the same rights of those fighting for Ukraine's armed forces, but must return the arms and any unused ammunition within 10 days of the end of martial law.

Newsweek is currently trying to determine the veracity of the document.

In the first days of the war, Ukrainian defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said 25,000 guns had been given to territorial defence members in the Kyiv region alone.

Thousands of ordinary Ukrainians are volunteering for the armed forces despite many having no previous military experience.

Men between the ages of 18 and 60 are banned from leaving the country and have been urged to fight against Russian aggression.

The legislation said "citizens of Ukraine may participate in repelling and deterring armed aggression by the Russian Federation" by using their own weapons, which include sports weapons, shotguns and hunting rifles.

"Civilians shall not be criminally liable for the use of firearms against persons who carry out armed aggression against Ukraine, if such weapons are used in accordance with the requirements of the Law of Ukraine," the decree said.

Newsweek has contacted Ukraine's defense ministry for comment.

Russian troops are facing a tough resistance not just from Ukrainian forces but also from the population at large. In a video posted on March 3, Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky urged Russian soldiers to put down their weapons.

"Go home. With your whole army," he said, "tell your officers that you want to live, that you don't want to die but to live."

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Kyiv has repeatedly accused his forces of targeting civilians in his campaign.

Last week, missile attacks on the second city of Kharkiv appeared to target civilians, while explosions rocked residential areas in cities around the country.

Ukraine accused Russia of a "war crime" following an attack on a hospital in the southern city Mariupol in which at least 17 people were injured.

The port city's mayor has said more than 1,200 civilians have been killed, while the Red Cross has called the situation there "apocalyptic" after water, power or heat have been cut and safe routes out of the city repeatedly coming under attack.

Ukrainian civilians with guns
Civilian volunteers check their guns at a Territorial Defence unit registration office on February 26, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. A law passed on March 3, 2022 reportedly legalizes Ukrainian civilians to use weapons against Russian troops. Chris McGrath/Getty

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts