Russian passport is not about rights, but about obligations to the occupier: human rights defenders presented the research

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The Russian Federation considers the passportization of the population of the occupied territories as a way of expansion, using methods of pressure, coercion, intimidation, and restriction of basic human rights.

This is stated in the analytical report “Imposition of Russian citizenship on citizens of Ukraine in the occupied territory of Ukraine and in Russia”, which was prepared by experts of Ukraine 5AM Coalition. The presentation of the research took place on March 27 in Kyiv.

“The main conclusions we came to in more than six months of collecting materials for the report — the Russian Federation seeks to impose its citizenship on as many citizens of post-Soviet countries as possible, which it considers as its sphere of influence. All armed conflicts initiated by the Russian Federation were preceded by forced passporting. Russian legislation clearly spells out the mechanisms for the expansion of those parts of neighbouring states that it can occupy and annex,” says Olha Lototska-Kolesnichenko, the documentarian of Ukraine 5AM Coalition.

At the same time, the actions of the occupation administrations are subordinated to the propaganda narrative that all residents of the occupied territories want to voluntarily obtain Russian citizenship. But in fact, this process causes quite a lot of resistance among the Ukrainian population. Most of those who really wanted it got their passports before the full-scale invasion began. Therefore, after October 4, 2022 (the date of signing the law on the inclusion of part of the occupied territories into the Russian Federation), a carrot and stick approach was curtailed and only “stick” is left.

Oleh Kolesnichenko, the documentarian of Ukraine 5AM Coalition, clarifies that the local occupation administrations have been given extended powers in order to fulfil the task of at least 80% passporting in the temporarily occupied territories. Common methods are restrictions on basic rights to education, free movement, medical care, as well as outright terror, such as forced eviction from the place of residence. Often even to evacuate from the occupied territory without a passport of the Russian Federation is impossible.

“For Russians, words and actions, as well as messages for external and internal audiences, are two different realities. When they state to the external audience that four million passports have been issued in the occupied territories, internal reports indicate that this is far from the truth,” he says.

“Methods of pressure used by the Russian Federation in order to carry out passporting are limiting access to medical services, necessary medicines, for example, insulin, obtaining documents about secondary education and the possibility of entering universities. At the same time, the Russian media create a distorted picture, trying to convince people that the passporting is successful and voluntary,” says Liubov Smachylo, an analyst at the Media Initiative for Human Rights.

Kateryna Rashevska, an expert at the Regional Center for Human Rights, emphasises that the Russian Federation is actually implementing the ”Trap” plan. “After all, even if a person took a passport, this does not guarantee their safety and the realisation of rights and guarantees. Because a Russian passport is not about rights, but about obligations, says the human rights defender. — For Russia, it is also about obtaining a demographic resource — mobilisation and labour. Similar processes were implemented by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.”

Experts of Ukraine 5AM Coalition draw attention to the fact that the changes that were made to the Russian citizenship law before the start of the full-scale invasion already predicted that the Russians planned to seize as much territory as possible in Ukraine, spread their passports and use both presence and absence citizenship of the Russian Federation in their own interests in order to persecute the civilian population in the occupied territories. Thus, Russia violates not only the fundamental principles of human rights, but also a number of norms of international humanitarian law and the UN Charter.

Residents of the occupied territories, who were forced to take a Russian passport, found themselves in a complex legal case. Ukraine, like most countries of the world, does not recognize imposed Russian citizenship, therefore it considers these citizens its own. Russia, despite the presence of dual citizenship in the legislation, does not recognize the Ukrainian citizenship of these people. However, human rights defenders emphasise that there is no prosecution for the forced acquisition of Russian citizenship by Ukraine against its citizens.

The research is available in Ukrainian and English.

You can watch the video of the presentation here.