Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a measure on Wednesday that expedites the process of obtaining new citizenship for residents in occupied southern Ukraine, Reuters reported.
The decree, which will have its most considerable effect in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia territories, is another step in Putin's reported "Russification" effort to integrate critical Ukrainian regions into the Russian Federation fully.
Obtaining a Russian passport in Ukrainian-claimed territory was initially only available to residents of the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk regions. There, Russia has reportedly issued around 800,000 passports since 2019, according to the outlet.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called out the influx of passports to the occupied regions in a May 25 statement, stating that the process was "a gross violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, norms and principles of international humanitarian law."
"Forced passportization of Ukrainians in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia is yet one more evidence of the criminal goal of Russia's war against Ukraine — the conquest of Ukrainian territories for their further occupation and integration into Russia's legal, political, and economic space," the ministry wrote.
Ambassador of the European Union to Ukraine Matti Maasikas also criticized the efforts by Russia to incorporate Kherson and Zaporizhzhia through Twitter last month.
"Russian occupation forces had to abandon all ideas of a 'referendum' in Kherson region due to the lack of any support," Maasikas said. "Why do they think that the now planned "passportizatsiya" [passportization] will have better uptake?"
In Annapolis on Friday, U.S. President Joe Biden struck a similar tone to the Ukrainian and European officials while speaking to a crowd of 1,200 graduating cadets.
Putin is "literally trying to wipe out the culture and identity of the Ukrainian people. Attacking schools, nurseries, hospitals, museums, with no other purpose than to eliminate a culture," he told attendees, per The Guardian.
Russia officially established a military administration over Kherson at the beginning of March. Recently, the city's new government appealed to the Kremlin about setting up a military base within its territory, Business Standard reported.
"There should be a Russian military base in the Kherson region," Kirill Stremousov, a top official in the military administration, told RIA. "We will ask for this, and this is what the whole population wants. This is essential and will be a guarantor of security for the region and its inhabitants."
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