The Russian government has decided to recognize Ukrainians and Belarusians as native Russian speakers and allow them to forego the language interview when applying for Russian citizenship, the Russian government announced in a statement on its website.
“The draft of the federal law On introducing changes to article 331 of the federal law On Russian citizenship has been approved and will be introduced in the State Duma in the established manner,” the statement reads.
The bill will allow Ukrainians and Belarusians who are proficient in Russian to be recognized as native speakers by a commission without an interview if they submit the relevant applications.
The application procedure will be determined by Russia’s Interior Ministry.
The status of native Russian speaker gives a person the right to a residence permit in Russia and makes it easier to apply for citizenship. Persons with this status do not need to live in the country for five years in order to obtain a passport.
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]”.