Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Monday expanding a fast-track procedure for receiving Russian citizenship to all Ukrainians, in another effort to expand Moscow’s influence in war-torn Ukraine.
Until recently, only residents of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as residents of the southern Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, much of which is under Russian control, were eligible for the simplified procedure.
Ukrainian officials have yet to react to Putin’s announcement.
Between 2019, when the procedure was first introduced for residents of Donetsk and Luhansk, and this year, more than 720,000 residents of rebel-held areas in the two regions, about 18% of the population, have received passports. Russians.
In late May, three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the fast-track procedure was also offered to residents of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. A month ago, the first Russian passports were reportedly delivered there.
Putin’s move came as Russian shelling of Ukraine’s second-largest city killed at least three people on Monday and wounded 31 others, the local administrator said. Hours earlier, Russian troops launched three missile strikes in Kharkiv that the official described as “absolute terrorism.”
Kharkiv Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram that the shelling came from multiple rocket launchers and that those hospitalized for injuries sustained in the attacks included children aged 4 and 16.
“Only civilian structures, a shopping center and houses of peaceful residents of Kharkiv, came under fire from the Russians. Several projectiles hit the patios of private houses. Garages and cars were also destroyed, several fires broke out,” Syniehubov wrote.
Earlier, he said that one of the missiles Russian forces launched over Kharkiv overnight destroyed a school, another hit a residential building, while the third landed near warehouse premises.
“All (all three were launched) exclusively on civilian objects, this is absolute terrorism!” Synyehubov said.
Kharkiv resident Alexander Peresolin said the attacks came suddenly, without warning, causing him to lose consciousness.
“I was sitting and talking to my wife,” he said. “I didn’t understand what happened. There were two strikes, two or three.” Peresolin said neighbors took him to the basement where he later regained consciousness.
The attacks came just two days after a Russian rocket hit apartment buildings in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 24 people. A total of nine people have been rescued, emergency officials said.
Saturday night’s attack destroyed three buildings in a residential neighborhood in the city of Chasiv Yar, inhabited mainly by people who work in nearby factories.
Russian attacks in the east also continued, with Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai saying on Monday that shelling had hit settlements on the administrative border with the Donetsk region.
Russian forces carried out five missile strikes and four rounds of shelling in the area, Haidai said.
The Luhansk and Donetsk regions together form the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine known as Donbas, where separatist rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
Earlier this month, Russia captured the last major bastion of the Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, the city of Lysychansk.
After the seizure of Lysychansk, some analysts predicted it would likely take some time for Moscow’s troops to rearm and regroup, but Ukrainian officials said there had been no pause in the attacks.
The British Army assessed that the Russian troops were not receiving the necessary rests.
The Defense Ministry tweeted Monday that online videos suggested that at least one tank brigade in the war was “mentally and physically exhausted” as they had been on active combat duty since the start of the war on February 24. .
The British said: “The lack of scheduled breaks from intense combat conditions is most likely one of the most damaging of the many personnel problems that the Russian (Defence Ministry) is struggling to rectify among the deployed force.” Also Monday, Russia’s main gas pipeline to Germany began a 10-day shutdown for maintenance amid European fears that Moscow may not be able to reopen the flow after completion.
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