The Kremlin plans to issue Russian passports to 600 to 800,000 residents of the territories of Donbass outside of Ukraine's control by the end of the year, stated the First Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs Viktor Vodolatsky in an interview with TASS.
He said that more than 180,000 residents of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have already received Russian citizenship under the simplified procedure, and about 100,000 more will receive Russian passports in the coming weeks.
"To date, 187,240 residents of the People's Republics have received passports. About 98,000 people are in the process of registration. Within the next two weeks they will receive the passports of Russian citizens. By the end of the year, Russian passports will receive another 600-800 thousand residents of the republics," Vodolatsky said.
The official expects an influx of those wishing to receive the Russian citizenship after the resumption of traffic between LPR and DPR and the Russian Federation, which was previously suspended due to pandemic.
To date, there are two passport issuance points for residents of Donbass in the Rostov region. According to Vodolatsky, the Russian service will open several more passport offices if necessary.
"We are already predicting a huge number of people... It will be hundreds of thousands of people who are now just waiting for the end of quarantine. After the quarantine is lifted, we will assess what is the volume of documents. If it is necessary, our services will be able to establish two or three more passport centers,"" he said.
On April 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree which allows residents of the territories of eastern Ukraine which are not under Kyiv’s control, as well as residents of the annexed Crimea, to obtain Russian passport using a simplified procedure. Ukraine and its Western allies sharply criticized the decree.
On April 27 in Beijing, Putin declared that the Kremlin was considering whether or not to simplify the procedure for all Ukrainians to apply for Russian passports. On May 1, he signed a decree simplifying the procedure for Ukrainians born and living in Crimea so that they could receive passports in the next three months.
The Verkhovna Rada appealed to a number of international organizations, as well as to the countries in the European Union, the USA, and the diplomatic missions of foreign states in Ukraine to strengthen sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow’s decision.
The administration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on Facebook that the decree on the issue of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens is “Russia’s admission that it is an occupying power [in the Donbas and Ukraine]”.