Putin extends offer of Russian passports to Ukrainians before the parliamentary elections

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MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an order on Wednesday, further expanding the number of Ukrainian citizens who can apply for Russian passports.

Moscow made the move ahead of Sunday’s Ukrainian parliamentary elections, when a friendly party of Russia could become the strongest contender of the popular People’s Servant Party, led by new president Vladimir Zelensky, according to opinion polls.

The new order, published on the Kremlin website, amended Putin’s earlier decree, which made it simpler for residents of East Ukraine controlled by the separatists to apply for Russian passports.

According to the new document, residents of neighboring regions controlled by the governments of Donetsk and Luhansk may also use this procedure if they are registered as permanently living in April 2014 when the conflict began.

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Five years of war between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces killed 13,000 people, despite a ceasefire signed in 2015. Zelensky said he will do all in his power to end the conflict.

Putin has expanded the list of people eligible for accelerated passports , adding Ukrainians living in the Crimea region before the referendum on reunification with Russia in 2014, and citizens of Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan who were born in Russia during the Soviet era.

The document states that “citizens of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of Iraq, the Republic of Yemen and the Arab Republic of Syria, born in the Soviet Union and possessing Soviet citizenship, as well as children, including adoptees, spouses and parents “can benefit from the simplified procedure to obtain the Russian passport.”

That came as President Putin signed a decree facilitating the obtaining of the Russian passport for the inhabitants of certain areas of the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk, ie the territories of the Donbass outside the control of Kiev.

Putin stressed that it is an “exclusively humanitarian” measure that seeks to guarantee the basic rights of the inhabitants of Donbas.

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