Ukrainian human rights commissioner Dmytro Lubinets has advised Ukrainians who currently live in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine to “make a decision to survive” and take Russian passports.
Otherwise, people should leave such territories “in any possible way,” the ombudsman said on April 30.
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.
“This decree is aimed at legalizing forced passportization, which takes place in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine,” Lubinets said.
He added that those Ukrainians who refuse to change their passports to Russian ones may be arrested, turning them into a “separate category of civilian hostages.”
Lubinets added that he is “absolutely against” the statements of some of Ukrainian officials saying that anyone who took a Russian passport in the Russian-occupied territory should be punished, including possible criminal liability.
“Our citizens are doing this in order to survive.”
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, the Ukrainian military’s National Resistance Center reported on April 7.
On July 13 last year, The EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said the EU wouldn’t recognize Russian passports issued to Ukrainian citizens in occupied territories.