Council of Europe threatens to reject Russian passports issued in Donbas

The Council of Europe (COE) is prepared to consider rejecting Russian passports issued to Donbas residents in breach of the Minsk Agreements. The COE has also called on Moscow to unconditionally release the Ukrainian sailors captured near the Kerch Strait and to grant all vessels safe passage into the Sea of Azov.

Russian passports issued to inhabitants of the Donbas may not be recognized by the EU, Russia’s Federal News Agency reports, citing a statement by the COE.

“The Council of Europe will continue to monitor the situation in eastern Ukraine and is prepared to consider additional options, including the non-recognition of Russian passports issued in violation of the Minsk Agreements,” Brussels said in a statement.

The document states that the EU is “extremely concerned” by the Russian president’s decree from 24 April to simplify the procedure for granting Russian citizenship to Donbas residents.

The CE also called on Moscow to “unconditionally” release the Ukrainian sailors that were captured near the Kerch Strait. The council also demands that Russia return the captured Ukrainian naval vessels and grant all vessels safe passage from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to simplify the procedure for Donbas residents to obtain Russian citizenship. He said that the Kremlin is looking for ways to make it easier for all Ukrainians to acquire Russian passports, not just the residents of the separatist republics in eastern Ukraine.

Two weeks after Putin’s decree, Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said that Kyiv will consider any such Russian passports issued in the Donbas invalid.

“Today we will make a government decision to consider all [Russian] passports issued in Ukraine, in our territory, in the territory of the sovereign Ukrainian state in violation of international norms and rules, these passports will be considered invalid,” the prime minister remarked.

The documents will be considered invalid by the Ukrainian authorities for anyone crossing government borders or using them within Ukraine, he added.

On June 1, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry asked its international partners to pressurize Russia to comply with the ruling of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and release the Ukrainian sailors, then Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin wrote on twitter.

“We have sent an appeal to the foreign ministers from our friend and partner countries, asking them to pressurize Russia to comply with the ruling of the International Tribunal in Hamburg,” Klimkin wrote. He stressed that the other countries should “do their utmost” to ensure this.

Two days before this, Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal said that Kyiv intends to obtain international status for the Kerch Strait.

Such a decision would help to remove some of the legal uncertainty surrounding the strait’s status, she noted.

“For me it is very important to ensure the Kerch Strait’s status as an international strait. This will remove a great deal of issues which currently exist, including the matter of legal uncertainty,” the Ukrainian deputy minister observed.

  Council of Europe, Russia, Donbas, Ukraine, Putin