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Welcome Back to “Russia”: Putin Steps up Hybrid Warfare Utilizing “Compatriots” – KyivPost

Russian President Vladimir Putin has introduced a bill in the Duma to simplify Russian citizenship acquisition for individuals who lived in the formers Soviet Union, Interfax ru reported on Dec. 29.

He’s tried out a variation of this ploy already in eastern Ukrainian territories and Crimea which Russia has occupied since 2014, and now wants to expand its reach.

The provision envisages facilitating the acquisition of Russian passports to “citizens of the former USSR, their children,” and people “who have relatives in a direct ascending line who permanently resided in the territory belonging to the Russian Empire or the USSR.”

3 Million Ukrainians now have Russian passports

About 400,000 people underwent compulsory Russian passportization in the occupied regions of Donbas. In Crimea, compulsory passportization is total, it has affected about 2.5 million Ukrainian citizens,

the press center of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations quoted Oleksiy Reznikov, now Minister of Defence, as saying on Facebook during a briefing for UN member states, according to the Kyiv Post in February, 2021.

Russian passports are part of hybrid warfare

“Moscow officially meddles in other country’s affairs by distributing Russian passports on special terms….Mass naturalisation of Ukrainians is part of the hybrid war Moscow has been waging against Ukraine,” the Warsaw Institute explained on May 7, 2021.

Russia wants to increase of the proportion of Russian citizens in Ukraine, and thus make it difficult for Ukraine to re-integrate the occupied parts of Luhansk and Donetsk if a majority of people living there have Russian passports, to hide Russian occupation forces among Russian passport holders, and, to plant a “Trojan Horse” that could “disintegrate the region and sow turmoil there – and therefore elsewhere in Ukraine,” if the war with Russia is not ended on Moscow’s terms, the Warsaw Institute elaborated.

What does Putin say?

Russia “will continue to actively defend the rights of Russians, our compatriots abroad, using the entire range of available means — from political and economic to operations under international humanitarian law and the right of self-defense” Putin told Russian ambassadors on July 1, 2014. He made this statement at a time when Russia had just annexed Ukraine’s Crimea and was occupying parts of eastern Ukraine.

Does Russian “protection” help passport holders in lands that Russia occupies?

Research published by Freedom House, the respected U.S. democracy watchdog, indicated that occupied Eastern Donbas is “entirely dependent on Moscow for financial and military support.”  The leaders of the puppet regimes there have openly proposed joining the Russian Federation. Politics within these territories are tightly controlled by the security services, leaving no room for meaningful opposition. Local media are also under severe restrictions, and social media users have been arrested for publishing critical posts. The rule of law and civil liberties in general are not respected. The area ranks Not Free and scores 4% in the global freedom index in 2021, and even sank from 5 out of 100 in 2020.

How free are Russian passport holders in Crimea?

According to Freedom House, “The occupation government severely limits political and civil rights, has silenced independent media, and employs antiterrorism and other laws against political dissidents. Many Ukrainians have been deported from or otherwise compelled to leave Crimea. Members of the indigenous Crimean Tatar minority, many of whom continue to vocally oppose the Russian occupation, have faced acute repression by the authorities.” Freedom House ranks Crimea as Not Free and gives it a freedom rating of 7 out of 100, which is also down from 8 last year.

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