Ukraine's Parliament Passes a Controversial Law to Boost Much-Needed Conscripts and Fill Army Ranks

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine's parliament passed a law Thursday that will govern how the country recruits new conscripts, following months of delay and after thousands of amendments were submitted to water down the initial draft.

Lawmakers dragged their feet for months over the law, which is expected to be unpopular. The law was spurred by a request from Ukraine's military, which wanted to mobilize up to 500,000 more troops, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in December.

Exhausted soldiers, on the front lines since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, had no means to rotate out for rest, while many thousands of Ukrainian men evade the draft.

The law was passed to the backdrop of an escalating Russian campaign that has devastated Ukraine's energy infrastructure in recent weeks. Authorities said Russian overnight missile and drone attacks again struck infrastructure and power facilities across several regions and completely destroyed the Trypilska thermal power plant, the largest power generating facility in Kyiv region.

The law brings into effect a host of changes to the current system by expanding the powers of Ukrainian authorities to issue draft notices using an electronic system.

Incumbent army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi and Zelenskyy have since revised that figure after conducting an audit, saying the number needed was not as high because soldiers can be rotated from the rear.

Former army commander Valerii Zaluzhnyi's dismissal from his post was reportedly over the mobilization issue.

The vote came after parliament's defense committee removed a key provision from the draft Tuesday that would ensure the rotation of servicemen after 36 months of combat, a move that surprised some lawmakers as it had been a promise of the Ukrainian leadership.

Lawmaker Oleksii Honcharenko said in a Telegram post that he was shocked by the move to remove the provision. It was likely taken out because, considering the scale and intensity of the war against Russia, it would prove difficult to implement. Ukraine already suffers from a lack of trained recruits capable of fighting, and demobilizing soldiers on the front lines now would deprive Ukrainian forces of their most capable fighters.

On Wednesday, the parliamentary defense committee instructed the Defense Ministry to draft a comprehensive bill on demobilization of military personnel within the next eight months, news reports cited ministry spokesperson Dmytro Lazutkin as saying.

In nighttime missile and drone attacks, at least 10 of the strikes damaged energy infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said more than 200,000 people in the region were without power and Russia "is trying to destroy Kharkiv's infrastructure and leave the city in darkness."

In the Odesa region, four people were killed and 14 injured in Russian missile strikes Wednesday evening, said regional governor Oleh Kiper.

Energy facilities were also hit in the Zaporizhzhia and Lviv regions.