Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree expanding a fast track to Russian citizenship to all Ukrainians.
Until recently, only residents of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as people in the southern Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions – large parts of which are under Russian control – were eligible for the simplified procedure.
Between 2019, when the procedure was first introduced for residents of Donetsk and Luhansk, and this year more than 720,000 residents of the rebel-held areas in the two regions – about 18% of the population – have received Russian passports.
In late May this year, three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the fast-track procedure was also offered to residents of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.
A month ago the first Russian passports were reportedly handed out there.
The decree also applies for any stateless residents currently in Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have not yet reacted to Mr Putin’s announcement.
The passport move appears to be part of the Russian leader’s strategy, which could also involve annexation of territory into the Russian Federation.
He set the stage for such moves even before the invasion, writing an essay last summer claiming Russians and Ukrainians are one people and attempting to diminish the legitimacy of Ukraine as an independent nation.