Russia opens first passport center to process fast-tracked citizenship for residents of eastern Ukraine
The first passport center in Russia set up to bestow fast-tracked citizenship to residents of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic is now online in the city of Novoshakhtinsk, in Russia’s Rostov region, federal officials told the news agency Interfax. The office is reportedly running according to “test mode,” as the Russian government evaluates the demand from LNR residents and decides how many other passport centers to open.
The new center is capable of processing 200 citizenship applications a day. LNR residents do not need to come physically to the office in Russia: paperwork can be submitted at facilities in Luhansk, and it’s then transmitted to Novoshakhtinsk.
Ruslan Nadziya, the deputy director of LNR’s Migration Service, told the news agency RIA Novosti that at least 200 people a day have been contacting him with questions about getting Russian citizenship, since Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on April 24 simplifying the process for people living in Ukraine’s separatist-controlled Donbas region.
On April 30, Russia plans to open a second passport center to process fast-tracked citizenship for residents of Ukraine’s other separatist enclave in Donetsk.
Ukrainian President-Elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy says the Kremlin’s decision to simplify citizenship for Donbas residents means that Russia has effectively recognized its responsibility as an “occupying power” in the region, which Moscow has denied since the beginning of hostilities in 2014. Zelenskiy also urged Putin not to try to tempt Ukrainians with Russian passports, arguing that Russian citizenship carries weak civil rights and rigged elections.