Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

Why is Russia pursuing passportization of Ukrainians?


In June, Konstantin Zatulin, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration, and Relations with Compatriots, introduced a bill on the repatriation of citizens of Belarus and Ukraine to the State Duma. «If they (Belarusians and Ukrainians) want and self-identify as Russian compatriots, then we shouldn’t not to recognize them in this case», Zatulin said. The explanatory note says that the bill defines the conditions and procedure for the return of Russian compatriots to permanent residence in the Russian Federation. They propose two main criteria for recognizing the right to repatriation: compliance with the definition of a compatriot and fluency in Russian language. It is proposed to consider compatriots as people who personally or whose ancestors lived in modern Russia, as well as Ukrainians and Belarusians, even those who personally or their ancestors have never lived in Russia. It is noted that persons wishing to obtain Russian citizenship may not renounce their citizenship of Ukraine or Belarus. Thus, the Russian Federation is taking another step in the passport intervention against Ukraine.

Prior to that, Russia began compulsory passportization of the occupied Crimea, and later - the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Russia artificially creates all the conditions so that without its citizenship it would be impossible to exercise a number of rights in Crimea.[1] The situation is the same in «ORDLO». In order to force people to obtain passports of Russia and the so-called «LDPR», the occupation authorities threaten the residents of «ORDLO» with layoffs, the termination of social payments and the closure of business. The procedure for obtaining a Russian passport is simplified, residents of Donetsk and Luhansk can leave an application, after which, a few months later, people are transported by a special bus to Rostov region, where they get Russian passports. The number of residents of «ORDLO» with Russian passports is already about two million people.

Forced passportization is accompanied by restriction on the right of free movement of citizens. Now, due to the decision of the quasi-republics, only 2 checkpoints out of 7 are operating. Additional restrictions are imposed on young men trying to cross checkpoints. At the moment, Ukraine is undergoing an enrollment campaign, taking this into account, the so-called «LDPR» prevent applicants from entering Ukrainian universities, making efforts to preserve the population within controlled territories, and, consequently, keep the demographic potential of ORDLO, through coercion. «Militant groups don’t want to let the children go to Ukraine for several reasons. The first is the struggle for minds and values. If the children study in Ukraine, then the groupings will no longer have such an impact on the values and behavior of these children. They will not be able to impose that falsehood about Ukraine, which they create in the conditions of a hybrid war. In addition, these children will be able to influence their relatives and friends by telling the truth about Ukraine. The second – groupings need recruits to complete their combat units. Graduates are viewed there as bayonets that can be sent to fight against Ukraine», says Irina Zhdanova, director of the Open Policy Foundation public organization.[2]

From now on, the possible adoption of the Law on Repatriation is aimed not only at the population of the occupied Ukrainian territories, but also at the entire population of Ukraine, including those citizens who work in Russia and will return to Ukraine in the future. By doing so, Russia is forming a fifth column consisting of citizens loyal to the Russian Federation. This policy is not new, as Russia has used its passports to support pro-Russian sentiment in Georgia and Moldova since the 1990s. In the future, the Kremlin will be able to use its citizens to destabilize Ukraine from within and create separatist movements in regions with a passported population. In addition, at any time, the Russian Federation will be able to interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine, potentially with the armed forces involvement, under the pretext of «Russian citizens protection». The true purpose of this document is confirmed by the rhetoric of the Kremlin officials. In particular, Vladislav Surkov said in an interview with «Financial Time» that Ukrainians are well aware that now their country does not really exist. «I have said that it could exist in the future. The national core exists. I am just asking the question as to what the borders, the frontier should be. And that should be the subject for an international discussion ... The country can be reformed as a confederation, with a lot of freedom for the regions to decide things by themselves...», Surkov stated. [3] At the same time, during the April build-up of Russian regular troops around the Ukrainian border, Dmitry Kozak and Dmitry Peskov repeatedly noted the possibility of military intervention in Ukraine «in order to protect Russian citizens».

Also, an important factor in Russia's policy is the demographic changes in the country. Some Ukrainians are considered in Moscow as possible migrants, including to the Far Eastern regions. According to the expert of the Center for Countering Information Aggression Alexander Kurban, the territories beyond the Urals are rapidly emptying, people move to more comfortable regions of the European part of the Russian Federation or abroad. According to the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation, since 1990, 23 thousand settlements have disappeared in the country. According to Kurban, the mortality rate in the Russian Federation is now breaking records - 113 people per 10 thousand. «The 144 million total population of the Russian Federation declared by Roskomstat as of the beginning of 2021 is clearly not true, and migrants are actively inhabiting the territories abandoned by the Russian population: immigrants from the Middle Asia, China and North Korea», the expert says. Whereas previously this was a completely acceptable solution to the problem of the demographic crisis, today it looks like a threat to the national security of the Russian Federation. «People from Central Asia countries and the Far East are carriers of a foreign culture and traditions. They are not assimilated on the territory of the Russian Federation, but on the contrary, they create national enclaves, which are an ideal environment for separatist movements».[4] In this context, Ukrainians and Belarusians are desirable migrants since the Kremlin considers these nations to be part of All-Russian people.

In April 2019 Ukraine and the international community, in particular the members of the UN Security Council, condemned the decision of the Russian Federation to introduce a simplified procedure for granting Russian Ukrainian citizenship in the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This time, the international community and, first of all, the government of Ukraine, must respond to the anti-Ukrainian law on repatriation. Ukrainian certification poses a threat to the national security of the state, and therefore requires an adequate response in the form of introducing mechanisms to counter Russian passport intervention. The situation in Belarus is also a cause for concern, because under conditions of international community pressure on Lukashenka regime, the Russian passport may become an attractive alternative for the citizens of Belarus. This, in turn, brings the Republic of Belarus closer to absorption by Russia and the complete Anschluss within the framework of the Union State project. Therefore, sanctions against Belarus will not have a positive impact without sanctions against Russia, in particular, in response to the policy of the so-called passport imperialism.