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Updated Jul 1, 2024, 4:31pm EDT
Europe
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Semafor Signals

Ukrainians in occupied territories face threat of Russian ‘passportization’

Insights from the Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies, OpinioJuris, The Associated Press, and Foreign Affairs

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Alexander Ermochenko/File Photo/Reuters
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The News

Ukrainians in Russian-occupied territory today faced a grim ultimatum: Either obtain a Russian passport, and risk being forced to join the country’s armed forces on the front lines, or refuse — and be subject to penalties that include potentially being separated from their children, being deported, or losing access to basic services.

Unlike Moscow’s earlier “passportization” drive, the order is supposedly voluntary.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

‘Passportization’ is seen as a tool for undermining Ukrainian identity

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Sources:  
Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies, Professor Vincent Artman

Russia’s ‘passportization’ policy has “grown in scale and brutality” since its annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol over a decade ago, but remains one of the least publicized aspects of the war in Ukraine, the Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies noted, with one professor of political geography arguing that it sought to eliminate Ukrainian identity and statehood. It also ostensibly establishes a “perverse ‘legal’ basis” for conscripting Ukrainians, and thus “kills two birds with one stone” by forcing them to fight, and die, against their own country, he added.

It may also leave Ukrainians effectively stateless

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Source:  
OpinioJuris

The legal condition of Ukrainians who have been issued Russian passports resembles that of stateless people because they are unable to exercise their full rights as Ukrainian citizens, nor eligible to claim the full benefits of Russian nationality, an immigration attorney argued in OpinioJuris. Even if Ukraine retook territory occupied by Russia in the future, many of these Ukrainians would likely have limited means to prove their nationality and could be declared legally stateless by migration services, while others would be left in limbo as they go through bureaucratic procedures, he wrote.

Russia’s occupation is sustained through both force and incentives

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Sources:  
The Associated Press, Foreign Affairs, The Financial Times

Ukrainians living under occupation need Russian passports if they are to avoid being imprisoned as “foreign citizens,” but Moscow also offers incentives to those who comply, including a stipend to move to Russia, pensions for retirees, and money for parents of newborns with Russian birth certificates, the Associated Press reported in March. Economic policy is Russia’s “most powerful means” of exerting control over occupied Ukrainians, who are given welfare benefits and state salaries that are often more generous than Ukraine’s, Foreign Affairs argued. Yet the incentives only go so far: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s infrastructure projects aimed at the “Russification” of occupied Mariupol left locals living in substandard conditions while Russian businessmen profited, a Financial Times investigation found.

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