On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that makes it easier for Ukrainians in Russian controlled areas of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to apply for Russian citizenship and passports. This comes amid reports by Ukrainian intelligence that Russian forces intend on holding staged independence referendums in the regions, with speculation that Russia may later annexing them. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry reacted to the decree by saying “The illegal issuing of passports … is a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as norms and principles of international humanitarian law.”
This is actually an amendment to a 2019 decree for citizens of Donetsk and Luhansk to apply for Russian citizenship. The amendments state:
“Introduce Decree of the President of the Russian Federation B of April 24, 2019 No. 183 “On the definition for humanitarian purposes of the categories of persons entitled to apply for admission to the citizenship of the Russian Federation in a simplified manner” (Collected Legislation of the Russian Federation, 2019, No. 17 , Article 2071; 2020, No. 13, Article 1906; No. 45, Article 7094; 2022, No. 19, Article 3190) the following changes:
- a) in paragraph 1, the words “on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic or the Luhansk People’s Republic” shall be replaced by the words “on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine or the Kherson region of Ukraine”
- b) in the second paragraph of subparagraph “b” of paragraph 2, the words “on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic or the Luhansk People’s Republic” shall be replaced by the words “on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Lugansk People’s Republic, the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine or the Kherson region of Ukraine”. 2. This Decree comes into force from the date of its signing”
The move to fast-track Russian citizenship in the two regions falls in line with further acts of “Russification” that Russian forces have been trying to impose. Just this week, Russia installed officials in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia announced that the Russian Ruble would be used as the official currency in the regions, replacing the Ukrainian Hryvnia.
The latest iteration of Russia’s tactical objective for the invasion include the complete control of Ukraine’s southern Oblasts, which would cut off all access to the Black Sea and open up a land bridge to Crimea and Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway state from Moldova. Ukraine says Russia intends on incorporating the Odessa, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts “into Russia’s legal, political and economic field.” These Oblasts contain key port, industrial, and power infrastructures that would greatly expand economic opportunities for Russia if kept.
Earlier this month, Secretary of the Russian General Council, Andrey Turchak, announced during a trip to the Russian controlled city of Kherson that Russian forces plan to stay in southern Ukraine indefinitely. He stated “Russia is here forever. There should be no doubt about this. There will be no return to the past. We will live together, develop this rich region, rich in historical heritage, rich in the people who live here.”