In the biggest indicator thus far in the over three-month long war in Ukraine that Russia intends to likely fully annex territory in the East and South which is predominantly populated by ethnic Russians, President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed a decree which allows residents of Russian-occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to gain fast-tracked Russian citizenship.
Already the same policy is currently in effect for the breakaway eastern republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, the latter which is now reported to be almost completely in Russian forces’ control, as final battles with Ukrainian fighters are centered in the Luhansk cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.
Since 2019 an estimated 200,000 people in the two far eastern regions have gained Russian passports through the policy, which is now being extended to the Russian-controlled southern cities.
“Citizens of Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), or the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), permanently residing in the territory of the DNR, LNR, the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine or the Kherson region of Ukraine, have the right to apply for citizenship of the Russian Federation in a simplified manner,” the decree reads.
Ukraine was swift to condemn the move as a violation of its sovereignty and of international law and norms. Its foreign ministry said, “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.”
Meanwhile also on Wednesday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky slammed the door on the idea of making territorial concessions for the sake of ending the war.
“It’s possible if Russia shows at least something. When I say at least something, I mean pulling back troops to where they were before Feb. 24,” which marked the start of the invasion. He even said on Tuesday that Russia must hand back Crimea as well. He put the ball in Moscow’s court, saying it must “shift from the bloody war to diplomacy” if it hopes for the war to end.