On April 24, it became known that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a Decree on simplified issuance of Russian passports to Ukrainians who live on the territories of Donbass, temporarily occupied by militants supported by the Kremlin. The Decree states: "to establish that persons who permanently reside in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine have the right to apply for Russian citizenship under a simplified procedure". Also, the Decree states that applications for Russian citizenship should be considered within three months after the submission of documents. It is worth noting that dual citizenship in Ukraine is not recognized at the legislative level.
Putin came up with the following explanation for the issuance of Russian passports to the residents of Donbass: allegedly, this Decree is a humanitarian issue, as he said at a meeting with Council members of legislators: "We have no desire to create problems for the new Ukrainian authorities. But to tolerate a situation in which people who live on the territory of the Donetsk and Lugansk "republics", generally deprived of any civil rights and this is way over the line in terms of human rights." This way he "regretted" residents of Donbass. Putin admitted that the inhabitants of the occupied local militants and Russian military territories can not "move normally and to realize their basic needs and rights." " This is purely humanitarian issue", Putin claimed, who refused to recognize the presence of its troops in the Donbass and the role of Russia in the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ukraine.
In turn, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko responded firmly to the decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin to simplify the acquisition of Russian citizenship for Ukrainians on the temporarily occupied territories of Donbass. According to him, it is a preparation for full-fledged annexation of the Ukrainian Donbass. "This is another unprecedented intervention of Russia in the internal affairs of an independent state, a gross violation of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine, complete disregard for its obligations under the Minsk Agreements," the head of state stressed. Thus, according to him, the Kremlin deliberately cynically violates its obligations under international agreements. "It is actually about preparing the Kremlin for the next step of aggression against our state – the annexation of the Ukrainian Donbass or the creation of a Russian enclave in Ukraine," Poroshenko said. He instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to immediately initiate the discussion of this issue within the UN Security Council, as well as other international formats, in particular in the OSCE and the EU.
The international response was not too late and no less harsh. On April 24, the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker called Russia's decision on the Donbass undermining the Minsk agreements. "This decision of Russia to issue passports is provocative and adapted from the "occupation plan", it undermines attempts to implement the Minsk Agreements and return Donbass under the control of Ukraine," he posted on Twitter. "Donbass is Ukraine, and its residents are Ukrainians, regardless of what language they speak," the American diplomat stressed.
French Ambassador to Ukraine, Isabelle Dumont also said that the issuance of passports of the Russian Federation is contrary to the Minsk Agreements. "We condemn Russia's decision to simplify the granting of Russian citizenship to residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This decision is contrary to the Minsk Agreements and does not contribute to efforts to resolve the conflict," Dumont posted in a microblog Twitter. Canada condemned the "passport" decision of the Kremlin after France. The diplomatic office confirmed that Canada's support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity remains unchanged. "Canada condemns Russian-backed violence in Eastern Ukraine and destablizing proposal to extend Russian citizenship to inhabitants of Donbass", the report said .
Germany joined France. On April 24, Thursday, the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Germany issued a statement that "these regions are part of the Ukrainian state territory." Finally, on April 25, there was a reaction from Britain. British Ambassador to Ukraine, Judith Gough harshly criticized Russia for undermining the Minsk Agreements. "Russia's decision to simplify the granting of citizenship to Ukrainians in the Donbass is another arrogant attempt to destabilize Ukraine. Instead of construction of barriers on the path to peace, Russia should fully implement the Minsk Agreements and quickly put an end to the conflict," the British diplomat posted on Twitter .
In turn, Putin expressed great surprise at the negative reaction to the "passportization" of the Selected areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. He said this at a press conference following a meeting with the head of the DPRK Kim Jong-un in Vladivostok and he cited the example of other countries that also issue some documents to the national minorities. "It caused some kind of negative reaction, right? It’s strange that this kind of a decision causes a negative reaction, and that's why: for example, Poland for many years, almost ten years, since 2009, gives the Pole's Card, the same, and even more, Hungary and Romania issue passports, respectively, Hungarian, Romanian and Polish passports. In this regard, I have a question: Why Russians who live in Ukraine worse than Romanians, Poles or Hungarians, or Ukrainians who live there, but feel their inextricable link with Russia due to different circumstances – family ties, mixed marriages or any other reason? I don't see anything unusual here. Other neighbors do it, and why Russia can't do it?" Putin said. The President of the Russian Federation complains that after the Russian invasion, it difficult to move around the territory of Russia for the residents of the occupied territories of Donbass.
Granting citizenship to residents of other countries is not a violation of international law, because it does not regulate this issue, German lawyers and experts said to the "Deutsche Welle". "The procedure for granting citizenship is determined by the domestic legislation of the country," Professor of the Free University of Berlin and expert on citizenship legislation Dieter Gozevinkel explains. According to him, any state has the right to decide independently and without any restrictions which categories of foreign citizens and residents of which countries it intends to grant citizenship. Russia is not the only country that issues passports to residents of Ukraine, the same steps are made, for example, by Hungary and Romania, which also causes a sharp negative reaction from Kyiv, adds Senior Research Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), an expert on Russia and Eastern Europe, Gustav Gressel. But unlike Russia, according to him, "Hungary and Romania do not reserve the right to interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine, did not introduce military and did not occupy part of the Ukrainian territory." Both interlocutors of "Deutsche Welle" assume that Kremlin seeks to support its own claims to the separatist-controlled regions of Donbass by its Decree. According to Gozevinkel "there are certain political intentions behind this step", which can be interpreted as a possible threat to the sovereignty of an independent Ukraine." In fact, this means that the total issuance of Russian passports is a kind of legal occupation of the territory of Ukraine by Russia and the spread of Russian statehood, which establishes the real military occupation of these territories by Russian troops, in contrast to the situation with the Romanians and Poles.
Meanwhile, the West is serious. April 26, Friday, it became known that the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko called for introduction of targeted sanctions against Russia. Yelchenko made such a call at a meeting of the UN Security Council. "The Decree of the Russian President is illegal. The presidential decree is illegal, and Ukraine does not recognize it. And new targeted sanctions against Russia should be our common goal. This is the way to a peaceful settlement in Donbass," Yelchenko said. Ukrainian representative accused Russia of undermining the Minsk Agreements. Yelchenko believes that "the issuance of passports can be regarded as interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine." "Mass issuance of passports will be used to legitimize Russia's presence," Yelchenko said. In his opinion, "these are premature plans to blow up the logic of the Minsk Agreements, which makes their implementation almost impossible." The Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations appealed to the UN Security Council regarding Putin's Decree on simplifying the issuance of Russian passports in the temporarily occupied Donbass, as well as Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UN member states and informed them about the position of Ukraine. The UN Security Council on "issuance" of the Russian Federation ended with a statement by Germany and France in which these countries condemned the publication of the Russian Decree.
At the same time, the team of the newly elected President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky most accurately responded to the Decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin on simplifying the issuance of Russian passports to residents of the occupied areas of Donbass. In the relevant statement, it is emphasized that by this decision, Russia recognized its responsibility as an occupying state, it was another confirmation of the real role of the Russian Federation, which is an aggressor waging war against Ukraine. The appeal of the Zelensky team indicates that such actions of the Russian Federation reduce the distance to the solution of the main goal — the ceasefire. Zelensky's team notes that Ukraine will do everything in its power to protect its citizens in the occupied territories and provide them with appropriate assistance.
Thus, Putin is trying to psychologically influence the newly elected President of Ukraine and freeze this conflict in order to put Zelensky in an impasse. In addition, the Russian "passportization" shows that Russia is actively working on the recognition of these occupied Ukrainian territories.