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Putin signs decree making it easier for eastern Ukraine residents to obtain Russian passports

Putin signs decree making it easier for eastern Ukraine residents to obtain Russian passports
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that will simplify getting a Russian passport for eastern Ukraine residents of the breakaway republics. Putin said that the move is aimed at protecting human rights.

The new rules, that took effect immediately on Wednesday, apply to the permanent residents of the breakaway parts of Ukraine – Lugansk and Donetsk regions – the area which has an estimated 3.7 million residents who are predominantly ethnic Russians. The decree allows for the residents of the two republics to get a Russian passport under a simplified three-month procedure.

The decree has been published on the Kremlin website three days after Ukraine elected a new president.

It’s not aimed at “creating problems” for Ukraine, Putin explained. “People living on the territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics are completely deprived from any civil rights, it crosses all boundaries from a human rights perspective to tolerate this situation,” he said.

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The regions have been a battlefield for five years, after eastern Ukraine residents rejected the new authorities which came to power during the 2014 Maidan events. The new Kiev authorities tried to quell the rogue regions by force, using military and police units, as well as affiliated far-right volunteer militias. While the fighting was not very active for the past few years, the smoldering conflict regularly takes its toll on the both warring parties, as well as local civilians.

Ukrainian authorities have imposed a strict blockade on the breakaway regions, trying to prevent any cash and goods flow into the self-proclaimed republics. Apart from continuous artillery shelling of residential areas, Kiev also repeatedly disrupted water and electricity supply. Their residents therefore are forced to frequently go to Russia, in order to get the most basic household items or healthcare. Moscow, on its part, tried to ease the hardships of the Lugansk and Donetsk residents, repeatedly sending humanitarian convoys packed with food and other basic items and recognized the identity documents issued by the republics in 2017.

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The simplified process of getting Russian citizenship for the residents of the breakaway regions has been rumored for some time. Proponents of the measure argue that Russia should help alleviate the hardships which people in the two self-proclaimed republics faced since turning against Ukrainian authorities.

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