A new decree which offers full citizenship to all Ukrainians angered the Ukrainian government and was signed by Putin, leading to speculation that one of Putin’s military objectives is the complete annexation of all areas captured by Russian forces.
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Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has signed a hugely controversial decree mandating that “all citizens of Ukraine” be given “the right to apply for admission to the citizenship of the Russian Federation in a simplified manner” after a month ago Russia started issuing passports to Ukrainian citizens of the pro-Russian separatist republics in the Donbas region.
This has led to speculation that one of Putin’s military objectives is the complete annexation of all area captured by Russian forces, particularly in the south and east.
The Moscow Times reports that “Nearly 40% of the 137,700 citizens of former Soviet countries who obtained Russian citizenship in January-April 2022 were from Ukraine, according to Interior Ministry data,” indicating that the new citizenship program for Ukrainians appears to be in full swing.
The new decree has unsurprisingly angered the Ukrainian government, which issued the following statement in response: “The illegal issuing of passports… is a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as norms and principles of international humanitarian law.”
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In the meantime, a number of important administrative positions in charge of local and regional Ukrainian municipalities have been filled recently, providing another another sign of Russia’s intentions for eastern Ukraine.
For instance, the “parachuting in of officials” in areas firmly under Russian military control has been described by The Moscow Times:
A growing number of Russian officials have been handed senior jobs in occupied parts of Ukraine in what analysts said was an attempt to strengthen ties to Moscow ahead of a possible annexation process.
This week alone, appointments included a former deputy from the Russian parliament, regional government officials and a high-ranking Federal Security Service (FSB) officer.
The report goes on to say, “Perhaps the most high-profile instance so far came Tuesday, when former Russian parliamentary deputy Andrei Kozenko was made the deputy head of the ‘military-civilian administration’ for occupied areas of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya region. He will oversee economic integration with Russia, according to an official statement.”
The Moscow Times further notes that “the day before Kozenko was installed in the Zaporizhzhya region, former FSB officer Sergei Yeliseyev was made head of the government in the occupied Kherson region.”
Others, like John Mearsheimer, have theorized that Putin’s initial, more constrained war aims may have changed and broadened in scope since the invasion began, possibly largely in response to the US and NATO escalating their involvement in the conflict. Some Western analysts have claimed that Putin has sought direct annexation of parts or all of Ukraine from the beginning.