Concerns are growing in Ukraine and other western nations after it emerged Russia has provided Ukrainian citizens in the separatist states of Donbas and other areas over 500,000 passports since 2019. The move comes as part of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s masterplan of “passportisation” which looks to garner support from people in the former Soviet republics and disputed territories. He hopes offering citizenship, work and residency in Russia will keep people looking East to Russia instead of West to US, NATO and EU influenced nations such as Ukraine as the Russian premier looks to spread his influence across Europe.
Speaking in the town of Novoshachtinsk in Russia, which sits on the border next to the separatist republics in Ukraine, a visitor explained why she had applied for the passport.
Ludmila Sobol told Sky News: “I have Russian roots, my parents are Russian and I was raised in the Soviet Union.
“I am a patriot and I’m Russian. That’s why the time has come for me to be a real Russian, with Russian citizenship.”
While a second resident, Vasiliy Nepevoda, told Sky News: “I had a Soviet one, then a Ukrainian one – yes, I have a Ukrainian one and now I’ve returned to having a Russia one.”
Another was asked if they are happy with the Russian passport gifts, they said: “Yes of course, because the quality of life and salaries are much better.
“And everyone knows that very well.”
Since 2019, Russia has handed out more than half a million passports to the citizens of the separatist republics.
But Ukraine refuses to recognise the passport with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky branding the scheme as the first step towards the full annexation of the Donbas region which has been a focal point following the threat of a Russian invasion back in April.
Tensions between Russia and its neighbour Ukraine have been at breaking point in recent months after Russia racked up its military presence on the Ukraine border and in annexed Crimea.
The threat of full blown war simmered for weeks after Russia piled on the pressure of invasion in shows of military might which pushed Ukraine and the west to the edge.
Ukraine responded by sending its soldiers and military equipment to the border to prepare for the worst but nothing came of invasion.
And on Friday president Putin showed yet more opposition to the west when he threw his support behind Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko at a press conference where he said the two nations were “still friends” despite the controversy surrounding the detainment of opposition journalist Roman Protasevich who’s Ryanair flight was illegally diverted to Minsk by a fully armed fighter jet.