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On Monday, Russian leader Vladimir Putin signed a decree expanding a fast-track to Russian citizenship to all Ukrainians.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry has said the move by the Kremlin was an encroachment on the country’s sovereignty and inconsistent with principles of interntional law.
Until recently, only people living in Ukraine’s only 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.
But now Moscow has extended the Russian naturalisation procedure to all Ukrainian citizens.
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 - around 18 per cent 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, while reports have also surfaced of Ukrainian passports being confiscated from some citizens.
Some believe this to be part of Puin’s political influence strategy, which has involved the introduction of the Russian ruble in occupied territory in Ukraine and could result in the annexation of more Ukrainian territory.
Russia already annexed Ukraine‘s Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea in 2014. The announcement of the citizenship degree came just hours after heavy shelling of Kharkiv on Monday.
At least six people were killed and 31 injured when Russian troops launched three missile strikes on Ukraine’s second largest city. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the attacks struck at the points of deployment for Ukraine‘s “nationalist battalions”, while Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said that the shelling came from multiple rocket launchers, and those wounded included children as young as four.Earlier, he said one missile destroyed a school, another hit a residential building, while the third landed near warehouse facilities.
Russian attacks continued in eastern Ukraine, with Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai saying that Russian forces carried out five missile strikes and four rounds of shelling, hitting settlements on the border with the Donetsk region.The Luhansk and Donetsk regions make up Ukraine‘s eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas, where separatist rebels have fought Ukrainian forces since 2014.
Earlier this month, Russia captured the last major stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, the city of Lysychansk.