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Ukrainian parliament passes controversial conscription law as war effort struggles

Members of the Siberian Battalion, which was formed mostly of volunteer Russian citizens joining the Ukrainian Armed Forces' International Legion.
Members of the Siberian Battalion, which was formed mostly of volunteer Russian citizens joining the Ukrainian Armed Forces' International Legion. Copyright AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Copyright AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
By Euronews with AP
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The latest updates on the war in Ukraine.

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Ukraine’s parliament passed a law on 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 the military command under former army Commander Valerii Zaluzhny, who said Ukraine needs up to 500,000 new recruits to boost army ranks.

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

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 Ukrainian President Volodymyr 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.

Zaluzhny’s dismissal from his post was reportedly over the mobilisation issue.

Kishida to appeal to Congress for renewed Ukraine aid

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will head to Capitol Hill on Thursday for an address to US lawmakers meant to underscore the importance of keeping a strong partnership between the two countries at a time of tension in the Asia-Pacific and skepticism in Congress about US involvement abroad.

Kishida is on an official trip to Washington as the White House completed hosting each leader of "The Quad" — an informal partnership between the US, Japan, Australia and India meant to provide a counter to China's growing military strength in the region. 

Tokyo was quick to step up in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion in February 2022, joining the US and other Western allies in mounting aggressive sanctions against Moscow, while Japanese automakers Mazda, Toyota and Nissan announced their withdrawal from Russia.

The audience for Kishida's Congressional address will include many Republicans who have pushed for the US to take a less active role in global affairs. 

The Republican-controlled House has sat for months on a $95 billion package that would send wartime funding to Ukraine and Israel, as well as aid to allies in the Indo-Pacific like Taiwan and humanitarian help to civilians in Gaza and Ukraine.

Switzerland to host Ukraine peace conference without Russia

Switzerland's government said on Wednesday it will host a high-level international conference in June to help chart a path toward peace in Ukraine after more than two years of war, and expressed hope that Russia might one day join in the peace process.

The conference will take place 15-16 June, gathering top government officials from dozens of countries, following up on a plan laid out in recent months by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis.

China, an ally of Russia, has said it will consider taking part. The country laid out a 12-point peace plan to end the war last year that received a lukewarm reception from both Moscow and Kyiv.

More than 100 countries will be invited to the gathering.

“The first country that we spoke with, after Ukraine of course, was Russia, because a peace process cannot happen without Russia, even if it won't be there for the first meeting,” Foreign Minister Cassis told reporters in the Swiss capital, Bern.

Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported that President Joe Biden may attend.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned last week that prospective negotiations to end the fighting in Ukraine could be successful only if they take Moscow’s interests into account, dismissing a planned round of peace talks as a Western ruse to rally broader international support for Kyiv.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there will be no peace in Ukraine until Russia’s goals are met.

Russia puts more Kremlin critics on a wanted list

Russian authorities have put more Kremlin critics on a wanted list as its crackdown against dissent reaches unprecedented levels since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine more than two years ago.

Independent Russian news outlet Mediazona reported Tuesday that it found women's rights activist Darya Serenko and prominent journalist and author Mikhail Zygar in the Interior Ministry's database of individuals wanted on criminal charges. The entries don't specify the charges or when they were added to the list.

Both Serenko and Zygar have long left Russia.

The Kremlin's crackdown on opposition activists, independent journalists and government critics has intensified during the war. Hundreds have faced criminal charges over protests and remarks condemning the war in Ukraine, and thousands have been fined or briefly jailed.

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Serenko, a longtime activist and author, co-founded the Feminist Anti-War Resistance group shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and moved to Georgia during the crackdown. 

Zygar, an author and a founding editor in chief of Russia's independent TV channel Dozhd, also left Russia after the invasion and was declared a “foreign agent.”

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