The Ukrainian Defense Ministry claims that the Russian command has ordered the militants fighting for the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics (LPR and DPR) to obtain Russian citizenship.
“The Russian command has instructed the personnel of units 1 (Donetsk) and 2 (Luhansk) of the Russian Armed Forces Army Corps that it is mandatory for all soldiers to obtain Russian citizenship,” said Ukrainian Defense Ministry Spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk.
Citing intelligence information, Motuzyanyk said that the Russian administration is intensifying its “Russification” measures on the inhabitants of the LPR and DPR.
“Among other things, the extent of the propaganda is growing through intensive distribution in the occupation-controlled media of explanations and commentaries by so-called ‘specialists’ on the issuance of Russian passports, as well as the distribution of informational SMS messages,” the spokesperson observed.
He also pointed out that the leaders of the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service, have introduced additional restrictions for crossing the stretch of the border not controlled by Ukraine.
“The restrictions primarily concern people who are connected to the occupation administrations or serving in the ranks of the Russian occupation troops and the security services of the so-called L/DPR. For this category of people, crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border is only possible on work trips, if the Russian authorities have been informed in advance about the time, place and purpose of the trip,” Motuzyanyk noted.
The Eastern Human Rights Group reported that the various “civil servants” in the DPR/LPR are likely to be forced to “voluntarily” become Russian citizens. The group also noted that as of 4 May, 5-7% of the inhabitants of the occupied Donbas territories had expressed the desire to acquire Russian passports, according to the local authorities.
“According to estimates by the illegal armed groups’ administrations, as many as 31% of the Ukrainian citizens residing in the occupied regions are willing to accept a Russian passport,” the advocacy group noted.
The group stressed that the press and TV stations in the territories which are not controlled by Ukraine are conducting an “active agitation campaign” to push the passport agenda.
“The message is actively being sent to local officials that the next step from Russia will be to include the Donbas as part of Russia,” the group believes.