Putin to seize passports from Russians who criticise Ukraine war

Putin to seize passports from Russians who criticise Ukraine war

Updated: 2 months, 22 days, 8 hours, 59 minutes, 52 seconds ago

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Vladimir Putin has proposed measures to revoke the passports of naturalised Russian citizens who criticise the war in Ukraine.

Loss of citizenship has also been threatened for those who spread “fake news”, criticise the army or call into question Russia’s annexation of large parts of Ukraine.

Kremlin-owned Ria Novosti news agency reported that the president ordered several new restrictions on the rights of acquired citizenship through amendments to a citizenship bill making its way through the state Duma.

The measures appear aimed at the likely thousands of Ukrainians who have obtained Russian passports since February, when Mr Putin ordered his troops to invade.

In July, the Moscow Duma approved a fast-track procedure for Ukrainians to be recognised as Russia citizens.

Russian authorities in the occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions said they received thousands of applications but Kyiv and allied nations accused the Kremlin of forcing passports upon Ukrainians.

The EU last week agreed to refuse to accept Russian travel documents issued in Ukraine, citing the Kremlin’s “practice of issuing Russian international passports to residents of the occupied regions”. The measure also covered Georgia, which has been partially Russian-occupied since 2008.

Moscow’s citizenship drive was at the time denounced by Kyiv as a tactic for gaining control over regions since annexed by Russia, including the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

The Kremlin’s grasp on one of those regions slipped last week as Russian troops retreated from Kherson City last week under threat from advancing Ukrainian troops, in a humiliating rout from the southern territory Mr Putin claimed to be part of Russia less than six weeks before.

Having lost the only regional capital it had captured in nine months of war, Moscow swiftly declared the new capital of Kherson Oblast to be Henichesk, a port city on the Sea of Azov with a direct road to eastern Crimea.

Zelensky in Kherson on Sunday

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky visited Kherson City on Sunday and said investigators had found evidence of Russian soldiers of committing war crimes and killing civilians in the city.

It was unclear whether Russia’s latest crackdown on dissent would interrupt independent investigations into war crimes in Ukraine. The amendments tabled by Mr Putin also target citizens working for foreign NGOs that the Kremlin has deemed “undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation”.

The International Partnership of Human Rights (IPHR), listed as “undesirable” according to Amnesty International, has previously gathered and submitted evidence on Russian war crimes in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court. The Independent has contacted the IPHR for comment on the proposed Russian citizenship laws.

Mr Putin’s proposals will be included in a citizenship bill that passed first reading in April, according to Russian independent newssite Meduza.

It follows a bill passed early in the war that introduced prison sentences of up to 15 years in an effective ban on media publishing anything but the state approved line on what the Kremlin maintains is a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

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