Kiev, Washington rap Moscow for offering citizenship to eastern Ukrainians
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Kiev, Washington rap Moscow for offering citizenship to eastern Ukrainians

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree making it easier for the residents of separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine to obtain Russian passports and citizenship, the Kremlin said on Wednesday. In 2017, Putin signed an executive order recognizing the passports from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics as valid in Russia. The move was widely regarded as the first step toward the official recognition of the two breakaway regions. Starting Wednesday, Russia’s Interior Ministry is instructed to consider applications from eastern Ukraine within three months of submission. Putin enacted the new measures “to protect the human and civil rights and freedoms” of the area's 3.7 million residents, the Kremlin said. Later in the day, the US condemned the decision as “highly provocative.” “Russia, through this highly provocative action, is intensifying its assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the US State Department said in a statement. Ukraine’s President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky also urged more international sanctions against Russia after the decision, describing Russia as an an “occupying state”. Kiev is "counting on increased diplomatic and sanctions pressure on the Russian Federation," Zelensky's press service said in a statement. Ukraine's outgoing President Petro Poroshenko also slammed the move, calling it "Russia's unprecedented interference in the internal affairs of an independent state." "This is an attempt to justify and legitimize Russia's military presence in the occupied part of the Ukrainian Donbass," Poroshenko said in a video statement, referring to the Kremlin-backed separatist areas. The conflict between the Ukrainian government and breakaway separatists began after Moscow annexed Kiev's Crimea peninsula in 2014.

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