“Russia is not imposing citizenship on people in Donbas, but provides them with an opportunity to freely and on their own… apply for it,” Nebenzia said on Thursday.
Importantly, Nebenzia noted that applicants for Russian citizenship and travel documents can keep their Ukrainian citizenship.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree facilitating the process of issuing Russian citizenship and passports to residents of certain areas of the Donbas region.
Also on Wednesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin called on residents of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics (DPR and LPR) to refrain from obtaining Russian passports after Putin issued the decree to simplify procedure for acquiring Russian citizenship.
Kiev launched a military operation against the DPR and LPR in 2014 after they proclaimed independence from Ukraine, refusing to recognize the new central government that was installed via a coup d’etat.
A ceasefire deal between warring parties was signed in Minsk in 2015 following talks brokered by the leaders of the so-called Normandy group — Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine.
Despite this agreement, however, sporadic fighting continues in Donbas. To date, the situation remains tense, with both sides accusing each other of violating the truce.
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