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Minister urges Ukrainians in occupied territories to refuse Russian passports contrary to Ombudsman's advice
Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk called on Ukrainians who remain in Russian-occupied territories not to take Russian passports, which contradicts a recent statement by Ukraine's Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets.
"My recommendations to Ukrainians in the temporarily occupied territories remain the same: do not take Russian passports, do not cooperate with the occupiers, leave if possible, wait for the Armed Forces," the minister wrote on May 1.
On April 27, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin signed a decree allowing the deportation of Ukrainians in occupied territories who refuse to take Russian citizenship. Those Ukrainians who choose to retain their Ukrainian citizenship can be deported after July 1, 2024.
Lubinets has advised Ukrainians who currently live in Russian-occupied regions to "make a decision to survive" and take Russian passports or leave such territories "in any possible way."
In her May 1 statement, Vereshchuk said that by implementing the decree, Moscow wants Ukrainians "to either become Russians or leave the temporarily occupied territories."
"If they want to deport Ukrainians who do not want to take Russian passports from the occupied territories, there's no problem. Because the Russians themselves do not let Ukrainians leave for Ukrainian-controlled territory, violating international law and contrary to basic humanitarian considerations."
Vereshchuk added that she had appealed to the Russian side and the International Committee of the Red Cross with a demand to open humanitarian corridors so that Ukrainians from the Russian-occupied lands could leave for the government-controlled territory.
The Ukrainian military's National Resistance Center reported on April 7 that Moscow-installed proxies in the occupied territories of southern Ukraine had increasingly forced civilians to obtain Russian passports, using threats and physical violence against those who refused to do so.
On July 13, European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said the EU wouldn't recognize Russian passports issued to Ukrainian citizens in occupied territories. Russia has distributed around a million Russian passports on Ukrainian territory since 2019.