Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called upon the Kiev government to guarantee the legitimate rights and freedoms to residents of eastern Ukraine in order to win back their support.
The statement came as a response to Ukrainian President’s Vladimir Zelensky saying that some residents of the conflict-hit areas in the east of the country "are for Ukraine, some got lost and some are for Russia." "The last group is free to leave," TASS quoted him as saying.
Commenting on Zelensky's words, Zakharova said: "It’s not the people who got lost, it’s the government that got lost and then lost its people, too. And tanks sent by Kiev to ‘search’ for those people will not find them. Guarantee rights to those people, and they will turn up."
"By the way, Donbass residents did not elect the president in 2019, and it was not their decision, so they really don’t have to follow his advice about where they are supposed to go," she went on.
In her opinion, the reason behind "all of Ukraine’s troubles" should be sought within the ranks of the current leadership.
"Mayors, governors, politicians of all sorts who had residence permits and citizenships of other states, were lobbying decisions in their favor, under their command. And now the authorities are surprised by the fact that residents of Donbass, who remain isolated from the rest of Ukraine as a result of a financial and social blockade, who have been deprived of all rights including the right to vote in the nationwide election, decided to apply for the citizenship of another country," Zakharova added.
On April 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree, which eases Russian citizenship rules for residents of certain regions of southeastern Ukraine. "Individuals permanently residing in certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions have the right to apply for Russian citizenship under a fast-track procedure," the decree reads. According to the document, the decision has been made "in order to protect human rights and freedoms" based on generally accepted international laws.
The simplified procedure went into force on June 14. As of November 13, over 170,000 residents of the self-proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics have already received Russian passports in a simplified manner.