Russia has expedited its issuance of Russian passports to inhabitants of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement, citing intelligence data.
According to the statement, the command of the Russian Armed Forces is “taking measures to expedite the so-called passportization of the population”. Ukrainian intelligence believes that this is so that, as of October 1, the armed divisions in the Donbas will contain “only soldiers with Russian passports, and persons who have begun to apply for Russian citizenship through the established procedure”.
“By increasing the number of Russian citizens in the temporarily occupied territory using local residents, Russia is trying to strengthen its position at international negotiations to resolve the situation in the Donbas,” Ukrainian intelligence believes.
In this way, Russia “plans to avoid losing its influence in the region if it is forced to agree to individual concessions as part of implementing the Minsk agreements” and also “retains the potential for future aggression against Ukraine”.
These statements are being made ahead of the upcoming Normandy Format summit. The leaders of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia have provisionally agreed to hold a summit in this format in order to negotiate a resolution to the conflict in the Donbas. No exact date for the summit has been announced.
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-elect Vladimir 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]”.