Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, Georgian Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, said that the methods Russia has been using in Ukraine are similar to those it used in Georgia in the past, especially introducing a simplified procedure for the acquisition of Russian citizenship.
“Effectively, the Russian president has repeated in Ukraine what happened at the end of the 90s and start of the 2000s in Georgia: he has started to issue Russian passports to the population of the temporarily occupied part of the Donbas. Unfortunately, this is a very familiar scenario to us, and we know what it leads to,” Tsikhelashvili said during a meeting with Vadym Chernysh, Ukraine’s Minister of Temporarily Occupied Territories and IDPs.
The Georgian minister believes that the Ukrainians are well aware that Russia needs to take such formulaic steps in order to justify other illegitimate actions under the pretext of supposedly “protecting the interests of its citizens”.
“Unfortunately, we have already seen this, including during the aggression in 2008. I hope that something like that won’t happen in Ukraine, which has already endured many trials in recent years,” she added.
According to Tsikhelashvili, the fact that Russia does not intend to revoke its policy is an alarming signal, which highlights the need for Ukraine’s international partners to redouble their efforts to oppose Russia’s military policy.
Chernysh, in turn, pointed out the importance of Georgia’s experience for predicting what Russia is going to do next, and opposing it.
“As Georgia’s experience shows, issuing passports will in no way affect the socioeconomic situation of the occupied territories, and will not improve the well-being of the population that is forced to remain under occupation. Our ministry is currently preparing a number of proposals to change the legislation on Ukraine’s non-recognition of the relevant documents,” the Ukrainian minister observed.
On 24 April, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the decree “On the determination for humanitarian purposes the categories of persons who have the right to apply to obtain Russian citizenship through a simplified procedure”. The decree grants such a right to permanent residents of the territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions which are not under Ukraine’s control.
On 29 April, the Russian media reported that the first of these passport centers had been opened in Novoshakhtinsk and had already received 80 applications from residents of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic.
Another center was opened in the village of Pokrovskoye on 30 April. Kirill Alzinov, a spokesperson for Russia’s migration authority, said that only residents of the Donetsk People’s Republic could obtain passports at this center. “For the time being, two such centers will operate in the region. Taking into account the fact that considering an application can take up to three months, we expect that the first passports will be issued ahead of the specified deadline,” he said.