Statement of the CivilM+ platform regarding the introduction of the simplified procedure for granting Russian citizenship to persons permanently residing in non-government controlled areas in Ukraine (NGCA)
Читать заявление на русском.
On April 24, 2019, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin signed the Decree «On the Definition of Categories of Persons with the Right to Apply for Russian Citizenship in a Simplified Manner for Humanitarian Purposes», which established an expedited citizenship procedure for Ukrainians residing in non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine.
— The decree was adopted and published on the third day after the presidential elections in Ukraine,
— During the election campaign the winning candidate Vladimir Zelensky repeatedly stated his intention to end the conflict and implement peaceful reintegration of non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions,
— in the government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the winner of the presidential campaign, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, was supported in the second round of the election by an even higher percentage of voters than in Ukraine on average (over 80 per cent),
we, the members of the open international civil society platform CivilM+, believe that by acting in such a manner the government of the Russian Federation is manipulating the fears and expectations of the residents of NGCA and attempting to put pressure on the newly elected President of Ukraine. This is an extremely unfriendly step that could close the window of opportunity for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbas.
Already for several years people living in non-government controlled areas experience difficulties with access to civil documentation, pensions and social benefits, crossing the contact line, moving goods across this line, and performing other actions related to legal, social, economic and humanitarian ties with Ukraine. This state of affairs infringes the rights and freedoms of citizens and creates a sense of isolation and distrust towards Ukrainian authorities among the people living in NGCA. Ukrainian authorities need to review their policies towards the population living in NGCA and look for ways to remedy the situation. An important step to restore trust between the Ukrainian government and the residents of NGCA could be the development and implementation of transitional justice mechanisms in Ukraine, including clear rules for the application of amnesty, a clear and non-expanding definition of collaboration, etc.
The humanitarian and economic crisis in the NGCA is a consequence of the Russian Federation’s intervention and its continued support for illegal armed groups and de facto authorities operating in this territory. It is cynical to justify the Decree with humanitarian motives, considering the absolute indifference of the Russian authorities to the problems of people from other regions of the former USSR, who for many years have been unsuccessfully trying to obtain Russian citizenship, living on the territory of Russia (including about 400 thousand stateless people). It should be noted that the population of NGCA even if they do obtain the citizenship of the Russian Federation will need to fulfil additional obligations to access social services provided to the citizens of Russia — pensions, medicine, education.
The Decree of the President of the Russian Federation aggravates the difficult demographic situation in the region of the conflict, as it will contribute to the outflow of citizens searching for better employment opportunities on the territory of the Russian Federation. This complicates the process of conflict resolution in eastern Ukraine and the restoration of Donbas as a peaceful, integrated and developed region of democratic Ukraine and Europe. The decree is nothing but manipulation of the fate of the inhabitants of NGCA for the sake of improving the strategic position in the «big geopolitical game».
Issuance of passports of the Russian Federation to the citizens of Ukraine residing in the NGCA will lead to:
- an increase in the influence of the Russian Federation in NGCA, which will complicate the processes of restoring communication and reintegrating the population into Ukraine. Since the beginning of the armed conflict, the Russian leadership has been trying purposefully to shape perceptions of history and culture in a pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian spirit, especially among young people in NGCA, by providing Russian textbooks, promoting Russian TV channels, integrating the education system with the Russian one.
- destabilizing Ukraine after the return of these territories under the control of the Ukrainian authorities. There have already been similar precedents: Russian passports issued to many residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia became an important tool in the Russian-Georgian war of 2008.
- undermining the letter and spirit of the Minsk agreements: the procedure established by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation for expedited citizenship of the Russian Federation for persons permanently residing in NGCA envisages the granting of citizenship on the basis of an identity document issued to the citizens of Ukraine by representatives of illegal groups (the so-called LPR and DNR). A set of measures to implement the Minsk agreements does not provide for the existence of such bodies (LPR and DPR) or recognition of the acts and documents issued by them.
Proceeding from the abovementioned,
We, representatives of civil society, united in the CivilM+ platform and constantly working in close cooperation between human rights and peacebuilding initiatives, as well as maintaining human contacts with the residents of NGCA,
— call on the leadership of the Russian Federation to abandon steps that could lead to the erosion of the Minsk agreements and to make every effort to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine,
— call on all parties and all participants in the process of resolving the conflict in Donbas to be guided by the principle of the primacy of respect for the rights of the inhabitants of the region, to adhere to the norms of international law, to abide by the Minsk agreements, and to facilitate the return of NGCA to the democratic society of Ukraine,
— we are ready to provide the newly elected President of Ukraine and other participants in the Normandy negotiating format, as well as participants of the Minsk Trilateral Contact Group on the settlement of the conflict in Donbas, with our proposals aimed at improving the humanitarian situation in the conflict region. As mediators between the people of the region and political decision makers on conflict resolution, and based on years of field experience in the zone of conflict, we are ready to participate in the joint development of an action plan to resume interaction between the Ukrainian authorities and citizens of Ukraine living in non-government-controlled areas.
Country of Free People (Ukraine)
Centre of Public Initiatives “Ideas for Change” (Ukraine)
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (Ukraine)
MEMORIAL Deutschland (Germany)
Citizen and Army (Russia)
Human Rights Center “Memorial” (Russia)