Zelenskiy Vows Ukrainian Citizenship to Russians in Response to Putin Statement
28 April, 2019

Ukraine’s President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy has promised Ukrainian citizenship to all those "suffering from authoritarian and corrupt regimes," specifically the Russian citizens.

In what seems to be a tit-for-tat response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's April 24 statement on easing the Russian citizenship issuance for the residents of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics,” Zelenskiy reassured that only those Ukrainians who want to evade arrest or those looking for extra money would benefit from the eased procedure.

"We can even provide Vladimir Putin with the list of the Ukrainian citizens who will soon feel uncomfortable living in the country they have been cynically robbing by abusing their power," Zelenskiy wrote on Facebook late on April 27.

"Don't you dare to speak with Ukraine and Ukrainians using the language of threats, military or economic pressure. That's not the best way to stop fire or unblock the Minsk processes," Zelenskiy added addressing Putin.

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This comes days after Putin signed a decree that simplifies procedures for obtaining Russian citizenship for the residents of the occupied Donbas. The Russian President later stated that he's considering offering fast-tracked Russian passport to all Ukrainians, not just the Donbas residents. 

According to Russia's state-owned Tass news agency, Putin highlighted that this move wasn't rushed or accidental.

"Before we signed the decree, we calculated everything... It's quite the aging population [that lives] in those territories there," Tass quoted Putin as saying on April 27.

In his response, Zelenskiy amplified the difference between Ukrainians and Russians.

"Ukraine differs [from Russia] in ways that, in particular, Ukrainians have the freedom of speech, independent media, and internet. Hence, I know exactly what a Russian passport means," he wrote listing the problems that Russia in his opinion has, including "the possibility of being arrested for a peaceful protest," "the absence of free and competitive elections," and the lack of "basic human rights." 

According to the president-elect, Ukraine has a mission to serve as a "democracy example for the post-Soviet states," something Zelenskiy previously stated after the second round of the presidential elections on April 21. Part of this mission, Zelenskiy noted, is "issuing asylum and Ukrainian citizenship to everybody who's ready to fight for freedom." 

"We will grant asylum and help to anyone who's ready to fight side-by-side with us for our freedom and your freedom," the president-elect wrote.

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Zelenskiy also reiterated he is ready to negotiate with Russia in the Normandy format in order to end the war in the Donbas.

“I emphasize once again that I am ready for negotiations. I have hope that in the upcoming Normandy negotiations, Russia will demonstrate its readiness for de-escalation,” he wrote.

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/By Maria Romanenko and Džiugas Kuprevičius