Putin extends fast-track Russian citizenship to all Ukraine as attacks hit Kharkiv

Woman crying outside apartment building hit by Russian rocket
Iryna Shulimova, 59, weeps in the aftermath of a Russian rocket strike on an apartment block in Chasiv Yar, in eastern Ukraine.
(Nariman El-Mofty / Associated Press)

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Monday expanding to all Ukrainians a fast-track procedure for receiving Russian citizenship, in yet another effort to expand Moscow’s influence in war-torn Ukraine.

Until recently, only residents of Ukraine’s separatist eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as residents of the southern Zaporizhzhia and the Kherson regions, large parts of which are now under Russian control, were eligible to apply for the simplified passport procedure.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Putin’s signing of a passport decree, which also applies to stateless residents in Ukraine, was an example of his “predatory appetites.”


“Russia is using the simplified procedure for issuing passports to tighten the noose around the necks of residents of the temporarily occupied territories of our state, forcing them to participate in the criminal activities of the occupying administrations and the Russian army of aggression,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry added in a statement.

Between 2019, when the procedure was first introduced for residents of Donetsk and Luhansk, and this year, more than 720,000 residents of the areas held by Moscow-backed separatist rebels — covering about 18% of the population — have received Russian passports.

In late May, 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.

The Russian passport move appears to be part of Putin’s political influence strategy, which has also involved introduction of the Russian ruble in occupied territory in Ukraine and could eventually result in the annexation of more Ukrainian territory into the Russian Federation. Russia already annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

The Russian president set the stage for such moves even before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, writing an essay last summer claiming that Russians and Ukrainians are one people and attempting to diminish the legitimacy of Ukraine as an independent nation. Reports have surfaced of Russian authorities confiscating Ukrainian passports from some citizens.

The passport announcement came hours after Russian shelling of Ukraine’s second-largest city Monday killed at least six people and injured 31, prosecutors and local officials said. Russian troops launched three missile strikes on Kharkiv in an attack one official described as “absolute terrorism.”


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Russia’s Defense Ministry said the attacks struck at the points of deployment for Ukraine’s “nationalist battalions.” Kharkiv regional Gov. Oleh Sinegubov said on Telegram that the shelling of the northeastern city came from multiple-rocket launchers, and those hospitalized for injuries suffered in the attacks included children ages 4 and 16.

“Only civilian structures — a shopping center and houses of peaceful Kharkiv residents — came under the fire of the Russians. Several shells hit the yards of private houses. Garages and cars were also destroyed, several fires broke out,” Sinegubov wrote.

Earlier, he said one missile destroyed a school, another hit a residential building, and the third landed near warehouse facilities.

All three missiles were launched “exclusively on civilian objects,” Sinegubov said, adding: “This is absolute terrorism!”

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Kharkiv resident Alexander Peresolin said the attacks came without warning, with a blast so fierce he lost consciousness. Neighbors carried him to the basement, where he came to.

“I was sitting and talking to my wife,” he said. “I didn’t understand what happened.”

The strikes came just two days after a Russian rocket attack struck apartment buildings in eastern Ukraine. The death toll in that attack on the town of Chasiv Yar rose to 31 on Monday. Nine people have been rescued from the rubble but more are still believed trapped, emergency officials said.


A wife and mother is killed in her courtyard during Russian shelling. Her husband won’t let go of the body.

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The attack late Saturday destroyed three buildings in a residential quarter used mostly by people who work in factories. Russia’s Defense Ministry insisted Monday that the Chasiv Yar target was a Ukrainian “territorial defense” brigade, and that “more than 300 nationalists” were killed.

The Russian attacks in the east have continued, with Luhansk regional Gov. Serhiy Haidai saying Monday 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 together 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.

After the seizure of Lysychansk, some analysts predicted Moscow’s troops likely would take some time to rearm and regroup, but Ukrainian officials said there has been no pause in attacks.

The British military said in its daily intelligence assessment that Russian troops weren’t getting needed breaks.

The Defense Ministry tweeted Monday that online videos suggested that members of at least one tank brigade in the war were “mentally and physically exhausted” because they had been on active combat duty since the start of the war Feb. 24.

The ministry said: “The lack of scheduled breaks from intense combat conditions is highly likely one of the most damaging of the many personnel issues the Russian [Ministry of Defense] is struggling to rectify amongst the deployed force.”

Ukrainian forces continued attacks on what they said are Russian ammunition depots, in a prelude to a possible counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory.

Ukrainian officials said on social media late Monday that an ammunition depot in Novy Kakhovka, in the mostly Russia-occupied Kherson region, was destroyed.


Russia’s Tass news agency offered a different account, saying that the target was a mineral fertilizer storage facility that exploded and that a market, hospital and houses were damaged. Some of the ingredients in fertilizer can be used as ammunition.

Tass said there were casualties, without providing an estimate, and claimed the weapon used in the strike was fired from a U.S.-supplied multiple-launch High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS. Ukrainian officials didn’t comment on the type of weapon used.

Also on Monday, the main Russian gas pipeline to Germany began a 10-day closure for maintenance amid European fears that Moscow may not turn the flow back on after its completion.