It was a provocative transfer that drew condemnation from the US. And over the weekend, Putin appeared to up the ante, saying the Russian authorities would contemplate streamlining the process for granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainian residents — not simply these in separatist areas.
Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a proxy struggle since Moscow’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in 2014. Giving Russian passports to Ukrainians — a measure Putin described final week as “purely humanitarian” — may very well be seen as a pretext for additional Russian meddling in Ukraine.
“The distinction for Ukraine, particularly, lies in the truth that we, Ukrainians, have freedom of speech, free media and the Web in our nation. Subsequently, we all know completely nicely what a Russian passport really gives. That is the proper to be arrested for peaceable protest. It’s the proper to not have free and aggressive elections. That is the proper to overlook in regards to the existence of pure rights and freedoms.”
Writing in each Russian and Ukrainian, Zelensky introduced Ukraine as a bulwark in opposition to the Kremlin’s model of authoritarianism, saying his authorities will supply Ukrainian citizenship to these against Putin’s rule.
“Ukraine is not going to surrender its mission to serve for example of democracy for the post-Soviet international locations,” he stated. “And a part of this mission would be the provision of safety, asylum and Ukrainian citizenship to all who’re able to battle for freedom. We are going to present shelter and help to everybody — everybody who is able to battle facet by facet with us for our freedom and yours.”
And that is a message that Zelensky is conveying to Russians, in their very own language (and Ukrainians have additionally chimed in on social media, taunting Russians with visa-free journey they take pleasure in to Europe with their passports).
Zelensky is just not set to take workplace till early June, so it is unclear how a lot of this back-and-forth will set the brand new tone for relations between Moscow and Kiev. But it surely’s clear that for now, not less than, Zelensky is keen to tackle Putin at a rhetorical stage.
And as but, it is unclear whether or not the Kremlin will transfer ahead with plans to supply Russian passports to all residents of Ukraine.
“It is too early to speak about such modalities,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated Monday.
Early, maybe, however each Ukrainians and Russians will probably be watching the officers indicators between their respective capitals within the weeks to come back.