Moscow plans to distribute up to one million Russian passports by December to residents of eastern Ukraine
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called Russia's recent initiative to distribute passports to residents of the Donbass regions, as a "major problem". "It is the first step towards annexation," he said on Thursday (20), in a register with RFE (Radio Free Europe).
In April, Russian agency Tass announced that about 540,000 Russian passports were distributed in Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine. The goal is to grant one million documents by December.
There is no forecast for the recovery of relations between Moscow and Kiev since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. Muscovite troops support Ukrainian separatists, who took control of Donbass in the same year.
The two countries blame each other for increased fighting in the region. In response, Russia concentrated its troops on the border with the country - a move that Moscow called a "defensive exercise".
At a press conference, Zelenskiy said that resolving the conflict was at the top of his priorities. “This is definitely the first step, because the same thing happened when residents of Crimea received Russian passports. This is a big problem, ”said the president.
The president pointed out that his government already has plans for a solution in Donbass and reiterated that he wants to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin. His only objection is that the meetings take place outside the conflict zone, in a “neutral territory”.
Since 2014, when the low-intensity war started after the overthrow of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of the Kremlin, 13,000 people have died.
Among the demands of pro-Moscow groups are greater autonomy in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, which are of ethnic Russian majority. There is evidence that the Russians sponsor the insurgency through military and diplomatic assistance.