Zelensky wants to strip citizenship from Russian passport holders
President Vladimir Zelensky has submitted a bill to parliament that would allow Ukrainians to be deprived of their citizenship if they obtain a Russian passport. At the same time, the new legislation facilitates the acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship by those who have fought on Kiev’s side against Moscow.
The initiative, described as “urgent,” was put up for parliamentary review by Zelensky on Monday. It aims to establish several conditions under which Ukrainians can be deprived of their nationality.
An adult could be stripped of all corresponding rights if he or she “voluntarily acquired the citizenship of the aggressor or occupying state,” as Kiev refers to Russia. The same could happen to anyone who serves as a contract service member for that country or in any way participates in what is described as “armed aggression” against Ukraine, according to the document.
At the same time, the bill proposes to allow citizens of more than 30 countries – mostly Western ones – to apply for Ukrainian citizenship under a simplified procedure if they pledge to renounce their former citizenship within two years.
The same fast-tracked procedure could also be used by those who have served in the Ukrainian military and several other government agencies, or who fulfill special conditions through merit.
In presenting the bill, Zelensky also noted that it could allow all ethnic Ukrainians and their descendants around the world – with the exception of those from the “aggressor state” – obtain citizenship.
Russia started granting citizenship to residents of Donetsk and Lugansk regions – then part of Ukraine – under a fast-track procedure as early as 2019. The process significantly picked up pace in the autumn of 2022 after those territories as well as two other former Ukrainian regions overwhelmingly voted in referendums to join Russia.
In September 2023, the Russian Interior Ministry revealed that it had issued more than 2.8 million passports to people living in former Ukrainian territories, and predicted at the time that the number would increase by another 400,000 by the end of the year.
In February 2023, TASS news agency also reported, citing sources, that some 5.3 million refugees, including more than 700,000 children, came to Russia from Donbass and Ukraine since the start of the conflict in early 2022.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened various sanctions against their citizens who seek Russian passports. In September 2022, Kiev passed a bill imposing lengthy prison sentences on state officials who obtain Russian documents, as well as those who force or encourage people to become Russian citizens.