Ukrainians in occupied territories forced to take Russian citizenship or leave

On April 27, Putin signed a decree that allows the deportation of residents of illegally annexed Ukrainian territories who refuse Russian citizenship, prompting accusations of ethnic cleansing and war crimes by Moscow.The decree, published on April 27 on Russia's official Internet portal for legal information, says that Ukrainians living in territories annexed by Russia must either become Russian citizens or officially refuse to do so. This is an abridged version of an article on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Remote Putin virtually takes part in festivities on the restoration of trolley services in Mariupol, that was totally destructed by Russia (picture Kremlin) 

by the Russia desk of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

According to the decree, those citizens who 'declared their desire to retain their existing citizenship or remain stateless and did not take the oath of a Russian citizen will be considered foreigners' from July 1, 2024.

Residents of the annexed territories who are given foreigner or stateless status and threaten Russia's 'national security' may be subject to deportation from Russia.

Ukrainian reactions

The Ukrainian minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk called on Ukrainians who remain in Russian-occupied territories not to take Russian passports.

'My recommendations to Ukrainians in the temporarily occupied territories remain the same: do not take Russian passports, do not cooperate with the occupiers, leave if possible, wait for the Armed Forces,' the minister wrote on May 1.

Her comments contradict a recent statement by Ukraine's Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets. He has advised Ukrainians who currently live in Russian-occupied regions to 'make a decision to survive' and take Russian passports or leave such territories 'in any possible way'.

In her May 1 statement, Vereshchuk said that by implementing the decree, Moscow wants Ukrainians 'to either become Russians or leave the temporarily occupied territories'.

'If they want to deport Ukrainians who do not want to take Russian passports from the occupied territories, there's no problem. Because the Russians themselves do not let Ukrainians leave for Ukrainian-controlled territory, violating international law and contrary to basic humanitarian considerations.'

Vereshchuk added that she had appealed to the Russian side and the International Committee of the Red Cross with a demand to open humanitarian corridors so that Ukrainians from the Russian-occupied lands could leave for the government-controlled territory.

The Ukrainian military's National Resistance Center reported on April 7 that Moscow-installed proxies in the occupied territories of southern Ukraine had increasingly forced civilianto obtain Russian passports, using threats and physical violence against those who refused to do so.

On July 13, European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said the EU wouldn't recognize Russian passports issued to Ukrainian citizens in occupied territories. Russia has distributed around a million Russian passports on Ukrainian territory since 2019.

(Source: Kyiv Independent)

Evidence of the deportations, especially of children, prompted the International Criminal Court on March 17 issued arrest warrants on war crimes charges for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Moscow's commissioner for children's rights.

Hanna Malyar, Ukraine's deputy defense minister, said the move showed Russia is trying to 'influence a change in the ethnic composition of the temporarily occupied territory within Ukraine'.

'In this way, the enemy seeks to destroy Ukrainian statehood and the national self-identity of society in the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories,' she said on her Telegram channel.

Meanwhile. the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on April 27 recognized the deportation and forcible transfers of Ukrainian children to Russian territory as genocide. It also called upon the International Criminal Court to consider the possibility of criminal responsibility for the crime.

RussischeSchoolboekenBezetgebied fotoOlegGolovkovRussians massively import Russian schoolbooks into the occupied territories

Under a second decree, signed by Putin on April 28, people who lived in the occupied Ukrainian territories on the day when they were annexed and citizens who previously lived in those territories and moved to Russia but declared their desire to retain their Ukrainian citizenship will also be considered foreigners.

The new decree apparently targets critics of Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine, as well as labor migrants in Russia from former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the South Caucasus who either recently obtained Russian citizenship or are expecting to receive it soon.

Many naturalized citizens from former Soviet republics have complained that Russian military conscription officials were forcing them to mobilize for the war in Ukraine. A considerable number of them have either openly refused to serve or have fled Russia for their native countries.

'Those who pose a threat to national security, advocate forcible change in the foundations of the constitutional order, finance terrorist and extremist activities, or participate in unauthorized actions' can be deported, the decree says.

Putin on September 30 signed documents formalizing Russia's attempt to annex Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya regions, parts of which are occupied by Russian forces.

Earlier, Moscow held sham wartime referendums in the four regions that were broadly rejected by the international community.

The four regions together with Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014, make up around 20 percent of Ukraine, including some of its most industrialized territory.

This article was published by Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty.

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