Russia has made it possible for inhabitants of Ukraine’s rebel Donbass to claim Russian citizenship. Kiev naturally blasted this decision as attempt to claim the territory for Moscow, so Putin has responded by saying Russia is considering offering its citizenship to all Ukrainians:
Moscow may soon extend its fast-track naturalization procedure to all citizens of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin announced days after residents of the country’s east were allowed to get Russian passports within three months.
“We’re thinking on granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainians under a simplified procedure,” Vladimir Putin told reporters on the sidelines of the Belt and Road summit in Beijing.
Russia has recently made it easier for residents of the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine to become Russian citizens. Expanding on that, Putin said the decision “wasn’t spontaneous.”
The government has calculated everything, including the number of potential applicants, the number of future retirees and, most importantly, the funding needed to implement the measure. Putin said the offer of passports would cost an estimated $1.5bn, but it will not affect benefits or other social responsibilities.
Unsurprisingly, the move drew criticism from Kiev and the West, but Moscow defended the proposal arguing it was not intended to provoke anyone. “The issue of passports is a humanitarian one,” Putin said this week.
Ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians who feel connected to Russia find themselves in a precarious situation. They have been stripped “of many things [including] fundamental human rights,” the president asserted.
Those coming from eastern Ukraine often have trouble in everyday life in Russia, be it enrolling at a university or simply booking a flight, Putin explained. Back at home, they have no adequate access to healthcare and social services as Kiev has essentially cut off the region from the rest of the country.
Naturally if Moscow is offering fast-track citizenship to any Ukrainian it is much harder to accuse her of trying to alienate Donbass specifically.
Russia should do it too. You can’t go around talking about the “Russian world” and trying to say Russia is not just a home for the Great Russians (Velikorussi) but of all Rus-descendent East Slavs who participate in the Russian culture, and then persist with outdated Soviet-style notions of territorial and exclusionary citizenship.
Finally there is a sign of some understanding of that in Moscow. Rebel Donbass inhabitants are not be required to renounce their Ukrainian citizenship or relocate to Russia to become Russian citizens:
Таким образом, указанная категория граждан вправе обратиться с заявлением о приобретении гражданства России, не отказываясь от украинского гражданства.
Thus, this category of citizens is entitled to apply for the acquisition of Russian citizenship, without renouncing Ukrainian citizenship.
Presumably that is the same offer that would be extended to all Ukrainian citizens. I have a feeling any Ukrainians under Kiev rule who took up Russia on the offer could find themselves in trouble. For example they could be risking public sector jobs or worse.
Still many others would benefit and anyone who feels Russian in Ukraine, or Ukrainian and Russian both as many do, certainly deserves it.