Newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has published a response to Russia’s decision to grant Russian citizenship to residents of the occupied territories in eastern Ukraine.
“Firstly, I would not advise the Russian authorities to waste time trying to tempt Ukrainian citizens with Russian passports. Perhaps there are those who are still under the influence of propaganda. Perhaps some will do it for profit or in an attempt to hide from criminal investigations. We could even provide Vladimir Putin with a list of Ukrainian citizens who will soon become very uncomfortable in the country that they have shamelessly robbed, abusing their senior positions. Let Russia decide again where it needs such ‘professionals’ most – in Rostov or in Magadan.
But Ukraine’s difference, in particular, is that we Ukrainians have freedom of speech, free media and internet in our country.
And so we are well aware of what a Russian passport actually offers:
The right to be arrested for peaceful protest.
The right not to have free and competitive elections.
The right to forget about the existence of natural rights and human liberty.
And so you shouldn’t count on many Ukrainians wanting to become the ‘new oil’ that the Russian government is trying to turn its own people into.
Ukrainians are free people in a free country. Independent, sovereign and indivisible. Ukrainian citizenship is freedom, dignity and honor. This is what we have defended and will continue to defend. Ukraine will not abandon its mission of serving as an example of democracy for the post-Soviet countries. And part of this mission will be to provide protection, asylum and Ukrainian citizenship to everyone who is willing to fight for freedom. We will provide asylum and assistance to everyone – everyone who is willing to fight alongside us for our and your freedom.
You should not talk to Ukraine or to Ukrainians in the language of threats, of military and economic pressure. This is not the best route to a ceasefire and the unblocking of the Minsk process.
I emphasize once more that I am ready to negotiate. I hope that at the upcoming meeting in the Normandy format Russia will demonstrate a willingness to de-escalate. The concrete confirmation of this willingness must be a mutual exchange of our citizens in the ‘all for all’ format. Without exceptions. On our side, we are prepared to discuss new terms for Ukraine and Russia to coexist. With the understanding that true normalization will take place only after complete de-occupation. Both the Donbas and Crimea. Ukraine will not give up! In every sense of the word.
I hope, however, that Russia will still aspire to talk more than to shoot.
I am truly not God, that my will should come to pass. But I also understand that the time will come when all officials will have to give an honest answer for their actions before Him. No one will go straight to Heaven. First there will be Judgment.”