Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that makes an expedited pathway to citizenship available to all Ukrainians.
The simplified process allows Ukrainian citizens to be granted Russian citizenship without having to reside in the country for five years, proving they have sources of income, undergoing a language exam or meeting other requirements.
“Citizens of Ukraine, Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) or Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) and people without citizenship permanently living in DPR, LPR or Ukraine are entitled to appeal for admission to citizenship of the Russian Federation via the simplified procedure in accordance with the … law on citizenship of the Russian Federation,” the decree states, per TASS.
Putin’s decree also notes that “military service, service in national security or law enforcement agencies of Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republic cannot be considered a reason for denying Russian citizenship.”
Prior to July 11, fast-track citizenships had only been offered to residents of Eastern Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson which are currently under Russian control. More than 720,000 people living in Donetsk and Luhansk have received Russian passports in 2022 which equates to 18% of the population of the two regions.
“The Luhansk and Donetsk regions together make up Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas, where separatist rebels have fought Ukrainian forces since 2014,” reports ABC News. “Earlier this month, Russia captured the last major stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, the city of Lysychansk.”
The passports are regarded as part of Putin’s plan to increase his political influence in the region with the ultimate aim of annexing additional parts of Ukraine. Russia recognized the independence of the regions in February days before the country invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The Russian national currency, the ruble, has already been introduced in the Donbas.
Since the conflict began, over 1.5 million Ukrainians have fled to Russia according to data from the United Nations. It has been the top destination for refugees, leading neighboring European nations like Poland (1.2 million), Moldova (83,832) and Romania (83,704). Additionally, more Ukrainians have gone to Russia than to EU nations like Germany (867,000) or the Czech Republic (388,097).
UPI notes that the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in May that illegally issuing passports was a violation of its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on July 11 that the decree “only serves to show Putin’s predatory appetites” and was ultimately “worthless.”
“Ukrainian citizens do not need Putin’s citizenship, and attempts to impose it by force are doomed to failure,” said Kuleba in a statement. “I am convinced that the Armed Forces of Ukraine, with the proper support of their partners, will put an end to this.”
“Russia uses a simplified procedure for issuing passports to tighten the noose around the necks of the residents of the temporarily occupied territories of our state, forcing them to participate in the criminal activities of the occupation’s administration and of the invading Russian army,” his statement read.
“I call on our partners to react strongly to Putin’s new passport fantasies: urgently provide Ukraine with more heavy weapons and introduce new economic sanctions against Russia,” the minister added.