Zelensky moves to simplify citizenship rules for Russian dissidents


                    Zelensky moves to simplify citizenship rules for Russian dissidents


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a meeting in the Presidential Office in Kyiv on Aug. 9, 2019.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed a decree to make it easier for Russians to receive Ukrainian citizenship “to ensure the protection of human rights and freedoms.”

Published on Aug. 13, the decree offers amendments to Ukraine’s current law on citizenship. These changes will simplify the process of receiving citizenship for Russian citizens who have been persecuted in their home country for their political views and for other foreigners and stateless individuals who fought in the Ukrainian army.

All the applicants, however, will have to renounce their previous citizenship. Additionally, persecuted Russians will have to prove they have been victimized by the Russian government.

Zelensky has already given Ukrainian citizenship to 23 foreigners who serve in the Ukrainian army. These amendments appear to formalize his position toward foreigners, including Russians, who defend Ukraine.

Now, the Cabinet of Ministers will have to file a draft law with the amendments to the Ukrainian parliament, which must vote for them two readings. The government has 2 months to pass the law, according to the decree.

Apart from the amendments to the citizenship law, the Cabinet of Ministers now has three months to simplify the process of receiving asylum in Ukraine for Russians who flee their country and need protection.

These changes to the citizenship law come amid a tacit showdown between Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who in April simplified the procedure for Ukrainians living in the eastern Donbas region, which is partially occupied by Russia, to receive Russian citizenship.

In response, Zelensky said Ukraine would provide citizenship to “to representatives of all nations who suffer from authoritarian and corrupt regimes. First of all, that is Russians, who today likely suffer more than everyone else.”

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