Moscow’s plan to make it easier for Ukrainians living in Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine to receive Russian citizenship violates international law, Kyiv has said, accusing the Kremlin of “criminal” behaviour.
“The illegal issuing of passports … is a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as norms and principles of international humanitarian law,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, earlier on Wednesday signed a decree simplifying the procedure to get a Russian passport for residents of the southern Ukrainian regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the initiative was further evidence of Moscow’s “criminal” war goals, namely the integration of regions held by Moscow’s army “into Russia’s legal, political and economic field”.
The official order published on Wednesday came on the heels of a 2019 decree that allowed the same fast-track procedure for residents of the self-proclaimed republics in Donetsk and Luhansk, eastern Ukraine’s breakaway regions.
Applicants are not required to have lived in Russia, do not need to provide evidence of sufficient funds or pass a Russian language test.
Kherson region is under the full control of Russian troops, while the south-eastern region of Zaporizhzhia is partially controlled by Moscow.
Moscow and pro-Moscow officials have said both regions could become part of Russia.
“The simplified system will allow all of us to clearly see that Russia is here not just for a long time but forever,” the Moscow-appointed deputy leader of the occupied Kherson region, Kirill Stremousov, told Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency.
“We are very grateful to Russian president Vladimir Putin for all he is doing for us, for protecting Russian people in historically Russian lands that have now been liberated,” he added.
The new authorities wanted to help those wishing to “join the big family of Russia”, he said.
Applications would be processed within three months and the Kherson region had already begun work on launching centres to issue Russian passports, Stremousov said.
Several hundred thousand residents of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions have already received Russian passports.
On Monday, the authorities in Kherson introduced the rouble as the official currency alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia. On Wednesday, officials installed by Moscow announced the same measure in parts of the region of Zaporizhzhia.