Putin extends fast-track Russian citizenship to all of Ukraine

KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) — As Russian missiles struck a key Ukrainian city, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday extended a fast-track procedure for obtaining Russian citizenship to all Ukrainians, another effort to boost the influence of Moscow over war-torn Ukraine.

Until recently, only residents of the breakaway Ukrainian regions of eastern Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as residents of the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, much of which is now under Russian control, were eligible to apply. the simplified passport procedure.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Klueba said Putin’s signing of a decree on passports, which also applies to stateless residents in Ukraine, was an example of his “predatory appetites”.

“Russia uses the simplified procedure for issuing passports to tighten the noose around the necks of residents of the temporarily occupied territories of our state, forcing them to participate in the criminal activities of the occupation administrations and the Russian aggression army “, said the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. Ministry added in a press release.

Between 2019, when the procedure was introduced for residents of Donetsk and Luhansk, and this year, more than 720,000 people living in rebel-held areas in the two regions – around 18% of the population – have received Russian passports.

At the end of May, three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the accelerated procedure was also offered to residents of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

The Russian passport movement appears to be part of Putin’s political influence strategy, which also involved the introduction of the Russian ruble into occupied territory in Ukraine and could eventually result in the annexation of more Ukrainian territories to the Russian Federation. Russia. Russia already annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

The Russian president laid the groundwork for such measures even before Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, writing an essay last summer arguing that Russians and Ukrainians are one people and attempting to diminish the Ukraine’s legitimacy as an independent nation. There have been reports of Russian authorities confiscating Ukrainian passports from some citizens.

The passport announcement came hours after the Russian shelling of Ukraine’s second-largest city on Monday killed at least six people and injured 31, prosecutors and local officials said. Russian troops launched three missile strikes on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in an attack one official called “outright terrorism”.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the attacks hit the deployment points of Ukrainian “nationalist battalions”.

“Only civilian structures – a shopping mall and houses of peaceful Kharkiv residents – came under fire from the Russians. Several shells hit the yards of private homes. Garages and cars were also destroyed. Several fires broke out,” Syniehubov wrote.

Earlier, he said one missile destroyed a school, another hit a residential building, while the third landed near warehouses.

“All (three were launched) exclusively on civilian objects. This is absolute terrorism! said Syniehubov.

Alexander Peresolin, a resident of Kharkiv, said the attacks came without warning, with an explosion so violent that he lost consciousness. Neighbors carried him to the basement, where he regained consciousness.

“I was sitting and talking to my wife,” he said. “I didn’t understand what happened.”

The strikes came two days after a Russian rocket attack hit apartment buildings in eastern Ukraine. The death toll from this attack on the town of Chasiv Yar rose to 31 on Monday. Nine people were rescued from the rubble, but others are still believed to be trapped, emergency officials said.

Saturday night’s attack destroyed three buildings in a residential area used mainly by people working in factories. The Russian Defense Ministry insisted on Monday that the target of Chasiv Yar “was a Ukrainian territorial defense brigade and that “more than 300 nationalists” were killed. The city is also the birthplace of the Ukrainian president.

Russian attacks have continued in eastern Ukraine, with Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai saying on Monday that Russian forces carried out five missile strikes and four rounds of bombardment, hitting settlements on the border with the Donetsk region.

The Luhansk and Donetsk regions are the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, known as Donbass, where separatist rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014. Earlier this month, Russia captured the last major stronghold of the Ukrainian resistance in Lugansk, the city of Lysychansk.

Ukrainian forces continued their attacks on what they said were Russian ammunition depots, a prelude to a possible counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory.

Ukrainian officials said on social media on Monday that an ammunition depot in Novy Kakhovka, in the mainly Russian-occupied Kherson region, had been destroyed.

Russian news agency Tass offered a different story, saying the target was a mineral fertilizer storage facility that exploded and damaged a market, hospital and homes. Some of the fertilizer ingredients can be used as ammunition.

Tass said there were casualties, without providing an estimate, and claimed the weapon used in the strike was fired from a state-supplied multiple-launch high-mobility artillery rocket system. United, or HIMARS. Ukrainian officials did not comment on the type of weapon used.

Monday also:

— Russia’s main gas pipeline to Germany has begun a 10-day shutdown for maintenance, heightening European fears that Moscow may not be able to restore flow after its completion. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany and is the latter’s main source of Russian gas. The gas is usually sent to other countries as well. It is expected to be out of service until July 21. German officials are suspicious of Russia’s intentions, particularly after Russian energy giant Gazprom last month cut gas flow through Nord Stream 1 by 60%. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address on Monday: “There is no doubt that Russia will try not only to limit as much as possible, but to completely shut off Europe’s gas supply at the most acute moment. This is what we have to prepare for now, this is what is being brought about now.

— Western nations promised more military support and supplies to Ukraine. In Kyiv, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Zelenskyy that his country would supply self-propelled howitzers and artillery shells. Rutte also pledged financial support to Ukrainian teachers, doctors and pensioners. Zelenskyy said he spoke with Rutte about the potential role of the Netherlands in rebuilding Ukraine.

– The White House said Monday it believed Russia was looking to Iran to provide hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles, including weapons-capable drones, for use in its invasion of Ukraine. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said it was unclear if Iran had already provided the systems, but said the US had “information” that Iran was preparing to train Russian forces to use them as early as this month.


Jovana Gec from Belgrade, Serbia contributed to this report.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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