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Ukrainians in separatist regions become eligible for Russian citizenship

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Ukrainians in separatist regions become eligible for Russian citizenship

russia pasport ukraine
russia pasport ukraine
Photo: RIA Novosti/Sergey Kuznetsov

Starting today, Russia will begin issuing passports to residents of the separatist-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, as well as annexed Crimea.

On April 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree expediting the process of obtaining Russian citizenship for residents of the separatist-controlled regions to three months. On Wednesday, the Kremlin published an expanded list of those eligible to acquire Russian passports under the new rules.

Ukraine does not permit dual citizenship, but President Putin has stated that his government is “generally thinking to provide a simplified citizenship procedure to [all] Ukrainian citizens”.

The move comes shortly after Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian and political novice, won the presidency in a landslide victory; he will take power on June 3. The Russian president is likely attempting exploit the instability of a chaotic election campaign and the inexperience of the new Ukrainian leader to test the lame duck president Petro Poroshenko and the president-elect.

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Although Mr Putin claims the issuing of passports to Ukrainian citizens is a humanitarian matter, the move appears to be a systematic attempt to foster distrust in Kiev. This could help Russia make the annexation of Crimea permanent, while providing support for other separatist regions.

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