Ukrainian recruits training in the Donbas region in February.

Ukrainian recruits training in the Donbas region in February. (Wojciech Grzedzinski for The Washington Post)

KYIV — Ukraine’s parliament approved legislation Thursday that officials say will simplify conscription, aiding an expected mobilization that could press hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian men into the fight against Russia’s invasion.

As Western aid has slowed, including a $60 billion U.S. package stalled in Congress for six months, Ukraine’s armed forces have been struggling with a severe shortage of soldiers, ammunition and weapons — allowing Russia to advance on the battlefield.

Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, voted overwhelmingly for the mobilization measure, with 283 votes in favor, one opposed and 49 abstentions, according to a Telegram post by Yaroslav Zheleznyak, a lawmaker from the opposition Holos party, that included a photo of the voting results.

The measure, which has not been published in full, clarifies who is exempt from the military draft, while generally simplifying the process. It still needs President Volodymyr Zelensky’s signature.

However, it does not address two of the most contentious issues: how many soldiers ultimately will be drafted, and whether those who have served since the start of Russia’s invasion, more than two years ago, should be discharged.

Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the country’s former commander in chief, had said that Ukraine needed to call up as many as 500,000 fresh troops to counter Russia’s superior number of forces.

This, combined with Moscow’s overwhelming firepower, has resulted in Russian troops advancing along the front line, including seizing the long-embattled eastern city of Avdiivka.

However, Zelensky has resisted calls for half a million to be conscripted, which risked setting off public backlash. Discussion over who and how many people to mobilize has proved divisive in a society that otherwise has united against a common Russian foe.

Disagreement over the issue between the president and his top general contributed to Zelensky dismissing Zaluzhny in February. Zaluzhny’s replacement, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, said in a recent interview that the number of soldiers Ukraine will mobilize “was significantly reduced” from 500,000, but he did not specify a new figure.

At the same time, Zelensky has said he recognizes that the country’s armed forces need reinforcements, which, in addition to bolstering Ukrainian positions, he said, would help counter a Russian disinformation campaign claiming that Ukrainians do not want to fight.

This claim has found a foothold among some Republican members of the U.S. Congress, who have blocked the aid package proposed by President Biden.

Zelensky, in an interview on Ukrainian television Saturday night, said the Russians “raised this issue in the West in such a way that today [Western officials] ask us, ‘If you don’t want mobilization, the parliament doesn’t want to vote, then why do you need help?’”

On Sunday, Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said it was “absolutely true” that some Republican members of Congress were repeating Russian propaganda, though he did specify whom he had in mind.

Last week, Zelensky signed a law lowering the draft age to 25 from 27, in another bid to replenish Kyiv’s badly depleted troops.

On Thursday, parliament also voted to remove from the new mobilization measure a provision that would limit soldiers’ tour of duty to three years. Existing Ukrainian law says that those fighting must serve until the war is over.

The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces had requested that the language about demobilization be removed and resubmitted within eight months as a separate measure on troop rotation, Defense Ministry spokesman Dmytro Lazutin told Ukrainian television Wednesday.

“We cannot make hasty decisions now,” Lazutin said. “It is certain that there are many, many populist opinions. At the same time, we must understand that the escalation of Russian aggression continues, the offensive is literally on the entire front line, and it is impossible to weaken the defense forces at the moment.” Serhii Korolchuk contributed to this report.

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