UN alarmed by Russia's "mass" passports move in Ukraine

Geneva, Switzerland - The United Nations on Monday voiced deep concern over Moscow's "mass conferral" of Russian passports in Ukrainian territory it controls, with those who refuse "ensnared in a web of exclusion."

Russia is reportedly carrying out a "mass conferral" of Russian passports in Ukrainian territory (stock image).
Russia is reportedly carrying out a "mass conferral" of Russian passports in Ukrainian territory (stock image).  © 123RF/andrey64

The UN human rights office OHCHR said residents who do not take up Russian citizenship were being denied access to essential public services and at greater risk of arbitrary detention.

"One and a half years after the Russian Federation's full-scale armed attack on Ukraine, we continue to bear witness to blatant and unabated violations of human rights," said UN deputy human rights chief Nada Al-Nashif.

In Russian-occupied territory, "we have observed with deep concern a policy of mass conferral of Russian citizenship on residents," she told the Human Rights Council as she presented OHCHR's latest report on the rights situation in Ukraine.

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"Individuals who opt not to accept Russian passports find themselves ensnared in a web of exclusion, denied access to essential public services such as social security and healthcare. This also heightens the risk of arbitrary detention for those who resist."

Russia's passport drive intensifies

The United Nations has warned Russia's passport activities could leave those Ukrainians who do not accept Russian citizenship denied access to essential public services and at greater risk of arbitrary detention.
The United Nations has warned Russia's passport activities could leave those Ukrainians who do not accept Russian citizenship denied access to essential public services and at greater risk of arbitrary detention.  © Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Russia had for years been issuing passports to Ukrainians in the eastern Donbas areas held by pro-Moscow separatists as well as annexed Crimea.

But since President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion in February 2022, the passport drive has become more aggressive.

An array of routine necessities such as receiving government benefits, getting or keeping a job, and seeking medical treatment require Russian-issued papers, experts and residents have told AFP.

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Putin in April signed a decree that allows Ukrainians in occupied areas to potentially be deported if they do not get a Russian passport by July 1, 2024.

Nashif said the conflict "continues to erode the foundations of dignity and humanity."

"Documented abuses range from widespread torture and arbitrary detention to conflict-related sexual violence and denial of the right to an adequate standard of living," she said.

Cover photo: 123RF/andrey64

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