The distribution of Russian passports to residents of the Donbas does not mean that this region will be annexed to the Russian Federation, said Russian Deputy Prime Minister and the Kremlin’s chief negotiator on Ukraine, Dmitry Kozak in an interview with Politique Internationale.
According to him, about 470 thousand residents of Donetsk and Lugansk regions which are not under Ukraine’s control became citizens of Russia using a simplified process. However, this is not considered as a sign of further inclusion of these territories in the Russian Federation.
"The decision on the simplified procedure for issuing passports was taken solely as a humanitarian measure after the blockade of the Donbas was imposed and the civil rights of its residents were affected. The decision to issue passports cannot be considered as a tool or a sign of the subsequent inclusion of the "DPR" and "LPR" into Russia, "Kozak said.
He noted that not only residents of the Donbass, but also other regions of Ukraine apply for Russian citizenship.
"In the period from 2016 to 2020, almost 978 thousand citizens of Ukraine received the citizenship of the Russian Federation," Kozak said.
At the same time, he added that the simplified procedure for issuing passports is temporary, and it will be canceled after.
"As soon as the situation in the Donbas is resolved, there will be no need for this decision. The general procedure for granting citizenship will be restored," said Kozak.
According to Kozak, in the period 2019-2020, there were 2.5 million people who moved from Ukraine to Russia. Kozak did not give say how many of them came from the Donbas.
On April 24, 2019, 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 Ukrainian 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]”.