Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, canceled its plenary sessions this week, delaying consideration of laws like the one on conscription that had been planned for this week.

This marks the first time the Rada has canceled meetings since September 2020, when it was canceled as a measure taken against the Covid-19 pandemic.

So what’s the reason for the cancelation and will it have impact the speed of major legislation, like the Ukrainian government’s mobilization plans?

Why were the sessions canceled?

Since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Rada doesn’t publicly state when it schedules meetings, nor when or why it cancels them.

Oleksiy Honcharenko, of the opposition European Solidarity party, complained about the cancelation in a Facebook post, calling the situation “a mess.”

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According to Honcharenko’s post, the cancelation all stems from some deputies being blocked from traveling abroad.

Ukrainian men need special permission to go abroad – including its parliamentarians.

At the beginning of martial law, which was enacted due to Russia’s full-scale invasion, deputies could generally go abroad as they pleased. However, the government got stricter about granting these permissions following a public outcry when media reports surfaced of deputies appearing to enjoy their time abroad – while Ukrainian soldiers were fighting fierce battles at home against invading Russian forces.

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When that happened, opposition parties like the European Solidarity party – which Honcharenko is a member of – say that the government hasn’t been fair in deciding who should be granted permission to go abroad for government business, saying that it favors the ruling Servant of the People party and those aligned with it, over opposition parties like his.

According to Honcharenko, this week, many Ukrainian deputies said that, although they would have showed up for work – rather than voting on a variety of draft laws all at once, they’d go through them piece by piece.

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However, these measures weren’t taken because the leadership of the Verkhovna Rada, on Tuesday, March 5, simply canceled the plenary sessions for the week, Honcharenko said.

That said, according to another Kyiv Post source, the Verkhovna Rada canceled its meetings for the week because there weren’t enough deputies home in Kyiv to get a quorum to pass legislation.

“Some of the deputies have not yet returned from their business trips (abroad) and now they have seen that there are not enough people to vote,” the source said.

Deputy Yaroslav Zheleznyak, who is from another opposition party, Holos, told Kyiv Post that the cancelation of the sessions gives certain deputies more time to prepare a report that they’re working on delivering to the US Congress – whose support or lack thereof will have a huge impact on Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.

Davyd Arahamiya, head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, posted in his Telegram that since Russia’s full-scale invasion started, parliament is, in a sense, always in session.

“First of all, this allows us to meet at any time to make decisions. And secondly, to make quick responses to changes in security matters, important deadlines or respond to our allies’ decisions...There’s currently an urgent and important task related to this for our deputies, which affects the assistance from our partners. When this is done, they will return to work,” Arahamiya wrote.

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Will mobilization be impacted?

“I don't think it will have a serious effect on it,” Zheleznyak said.

Among other things, the controversial mobilization law calls for the lowering of the age of conscription – an effort to get more fighting men to the front lines.

However, he said, the consideration of several dozen other draft laws could be postponed to the following weeks, which may generally slow the Rada down.

“Forty-eight laws were scheduled for the sixth and seventh of March. They will move and may delay the consideration of other bills. There are several important European integration bills among those 48,” he said.

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