With a stroke of a pen, President Vladimir Putin opened access to more than two million people in the Donbass (DNR and LNR) to obtain Russian passports. The document with a rather long title “On the definition for humanitarian purposes of categories of persons entitled to apply for admission to the citizenship of the Russian Federation under a simplified procedure” actually opened the way to Russia for residents of unrecognized republics. According to this decree, the right to Russian passports “without delay” is obtained by persons who permanently reside in the territories of certain regions of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.
Putin explained his decision as follows: “We have no desire to create problems for the new Ukrainian government, but to tolerate a situation in which people living in the territory of these Donetsk and Lugansk republics are completely deprived of any civil rights – this is already beyond the borders in terms of human rights. They cannot move normally, cannot realize their most elementary needs and realize their elementary rights. This is a purely humanitarian question.”
Both the decree and the explanatory words of Putin contain the word “humanitarian” in relation to Russian passports. Humanitarian aid is a type of gratuitous aid, a means of living, distributed free of charge among the population of the areas covered by a humanitarian disaster.
We cling to this word. When the rebel Donbass was suffocating in the economic blockade of Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk literally saved humanitarian convoys from Russia. They brought everything from flour and other food products to agricultural equipment and seeds, textbooks for schoolchildren and students. Donbass was able to exhale and heal a new life from such donations. Now there (in the neighboring regions of the Russian Federation) trucks with humanitarian passports will go – if not all, then very many will want to get Russian citizenship. Passports, the “red-skinned book” from the famous poem by Vladimir Mayakovsky, in the Donbass will certainly be delighted and can now proudly “pull out of wide trousers a duplicate of invaluable cargo” a document embossed with a double-headed eagle and the words “Russian Federation”. But all these years, the Donbass, starting in 2014, has been waiting for something more from Russia than a “humanitarian aid”. Donbass wanted to do “like the Crimea”, wanted to be a part of Russia, and in the case of a referendum, would give a percentage of votes for reunification no less than on the peninsula.
Donbass was not taken to Russia, Moscow hasn’t really dealt with the Crimea, and Moscow didn’t need another reason for sanctions and accusations of aggression. Simply humanitarian aid, and now passports, to maintain relations with the unrecognized DNR. It’s like in the expression about friends: “Perhaps will not give them enough dinner, but they will not let them die of hunger either”. Russian passports, of course, are not a panacea for all ills, but it gives some guarantees for survival.
We asked political observer, journalist Alexander Grishin, to explain the situation with Russian passports for Donbass, as they say, “on fingers”, answering banal questions: why, why now, what will it give to the residents of the DNR and, not least, What will be next?
- The issue of granting citizenship to residents of Donbass has been discussed for a long time. Firstly, to protect the public. With the change of power in Ukraine, there are fears that a military conflict could flare up with a new force if the nationalists in this country do not begin to reckon with Zelensky’s “peace”. Again, after the constitutional reform and the transformation of Ukraine into a parliamentary republic, the decisions of the president may not be important for other branches of government. The possibility of a new coup in Ukraine cannot be excluded. Therefore, the presence in the Donbass of residents of the citizenship of the Russian Federation will be an additional justification for their protection from war.
The current decision on passports is also explained by the actions of the authorities of the “new” Ukraine. The first presidential and parliamentary elections after the Maidan took place in an atmosphere of confusion, if not chaos, when it was possible to write off the denial of allowing Ukrainian citizens in the Crimea and the Donbas to vote.
Now in Ukraine, where relative order has been imposed, citizens in these territories, plus those who work in the Russian Federation, were also deprived of their basic civil rights. Ukraine refused them even earlier, ceasing to pay pensions, social benefits and other assistance, and now deprived of the possibility of voting, denied civil rights, which should be guaranteed by the state.
Donbass residents, Russian citizenship, in addition to additional security guarantees, will provide the mildest mode of restrictions on life and work in Russia, which was established earlier. The question will also be removed on many militias, some of whom the functionaries of the law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation intended to deport. Children will be able to study in Russia without any specialized quotas, and old people will receive all the necessary social and medical assistance in the territory of the Russian Federation.
Next, Ukraine has to decide whether to implement the Minsk agreements in full format as soon as possible, which is not being observed now, or if Kiev refuses this format of conflict resolution, in the long run DNR and LNR can be recognized by Russia as independent states, and over time enter its composition is not only population, but also territory.
It is clear that in Ukraine itself, and after the US State Department, Putin’s decision to simplify the issuance of Russian passports reacted extremely painfully.
- By such provocative actions, Russia is increasing its encroachment on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, – Reuters quotes the extract from the State Department statement. In Kiev, the granting of Russian citizenship was called “the continuation of aggression and interference in the internal affairs of the country.” And the team of the future president Zelensky reported that by this step Moscow “recognized its responsibility as an occupying state”. Here, it must be admitted, Putin did not even beat Zelensky, but beat him, knocking out such a trump card as the return of payments of Ukrainian pensions and social benefits to residents of Donbass. However, the new president of Ukraine will need to at least achieve a cease-fire on the line of demarcation and ensure the free movement of civilians between the “that” and “this” territories of Donbass in order to fulfill their promises. The task is not simple.
The burning question is the question of pensions, which will have to be paid to residents of the DNR and the LNR. In Russia, words will surely be heard that, they say, “we will feed the Donbass now,” and the retirement age of their own poor has been raised to 19 million (according to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev). With a population of two and a half million “new Russian” in Donetsk and Lugansk, the elderly people of 300 thousand will be accurately typed. Even with minimal pension subsidies, this will be a sizeable amount. If we campare with Abkhazia, where the citizenship of the Russian Federation and passports were actively issued until 2008, the size of the pension supplements to the Abkhaz-Russians was determined to be not more than 10,180 rubles. That is, the main pension is provided by Sukhumi, and the missing part is transferred by Moscow. In Transnistria, where there are also quite a few residents with Russian citizenship, the Russian pension is paid on the basis of the amount of the monthly transferred tranche, which is divided into equal parts by those to whom it is entitled. Payments fluctuate on this basis. The procedure for paying pensions from Russia in the Donbass has not yet been determined, it is unlikely to exceed all-Russian, but there are also local pensions there, and some residents also manage to receive Ukrainian ones, for this, however, it is necessary to cross the line of demarcation and have proof of work in enterprises outside rebel zone.
The meeting of the Russian president and the Ukrainian one will probably not take place soon.
In addition to the now Donbass, the Russian “humanitarian passports” are residents of the above-mentioned Abkhazia and Transnistria (out of the 500 thousand population of the PMR, 213 thousand are considered Russian citizens), as well as South Ossetia. They received a similar right in 2002 after the adoption of a new law on citizenship of the Russian Federation, which granted the right to former USSR citizens who remained stateless after the collapse of the Soviet Union to exchange a Soviet passport for a Russian one. In the Crimea, according to a spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in 2008, the Russian Consulate General in Simferopol issues Russian passports to residents of the peninsula and these are already 80 percent only in the capital of Crimea. In 2014, after the annexation of the Crimea to Russia, the full transition to the passports of the Russian Federation took only nine months.
There is such a nuance in the current decision on Russian citizenship, which does not mean that a resident of Donbass will not become a full-fledged citizen of the Russian Federation. For example, there will not be an urgent service in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Russia, and local residents will be able to do military service under contract only in the territory of their region, where there are no regular Russian military units. Certain quotas will remain when enrolling in Russian universities. Unconditional right – free movement on the territory of the Russian Federation, while the registration of residence for them will remain, just as for residents of Russian cities who came for a long time to another Russian city.
In general, Donbass dreamed about a bit different “humanitarian aid”, but now Russian passports will be started to be received here en masse – in the offices of the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation in the neighboring Russian territories. Donbass is not Russia.