Ukrainians in Russian-occupied territories are being forced to accept Russian citizenship to obtain basic state services and, according to human rights activists, they continue to be threatened with conscription and arrest.
“Most of the people who are still there are old people. And those who are young don’t talk much, ”he declared to EFE Denys, who this year left a town under Russian occupation in the province of Kherson (south).
It’s one of the thousands of Ukrainians who have been forced to undertake a long and often expensive journey through Russian territory to escape the risks they faced by staying at home.
Many of those who choose to stay do so because they cannot leave the place where they have spent their entire lives or because they have to take care of relatives or property.
“People are afraid to speak. They have access to the internet through the Russian (telephone) networks and they don’t want to get in trouble if their messages are intercepted or tracked,” Denys explained.
However, the available information is carefully collected by Ukrainian human rights organizations thanks to their personal contacts in the occupied territories and information from local authorities installed by Moscow.
A report from Eastern Human Rights Grouppresented on August 15, denounces that Russia has intensified efforts to force the remaining population to assume Russian citizenship.
A decree signed in April by Russian President Vladimir Putin provides for the possibility of deporting those without a Russian passport on July 1, 2024, recalled the organization, although the forced imposition of citizenship had already occurred before with a series of measures to penalize those who resisted.
“Receiving medical care, educational services, banking, is impossible without presenting a passport of the Russian Federation,” said lawyer Vira Iastrebova, president of the NGO.
This statement is corroborated by statements from local officials appointed by Moscow, such as Aleksandr Dudka, mayor of the town of Lazurne, in Kherson.
On his Telegram channel, he claimed last week that “citizens of other countries, namely Ukraine” will not have access to state-provided medicines, including insulin, or humanitarian aid.
Security forces can also detain people for 30 days without explanation for refusing to accept a Russian passport.according to the report.
In the first two weeks of August alone, 138 people were arrested for this reason in Lugansk and 103 in Donetsk, according to Iastrebova.
as in the Crimea
The Russian strategy largely follows the steps taken in the Crimean peninsula after its illegal annexation in 2014, whereby “there are fewer and fewer spheres of life where you can manage without a Russian passport,” he told EFE Alyona Luneva, from the ZMINA Human Rights Center.
ZMINA has received information that Russian authorities force owners of real estate and territories to re-register their ownership or rental rights with a Russian passport.
“Russia deliberately makes life miserable for all those who do not apply for their citizenship,” he stressed.
At the same time, he warns, obtaining citizenship carries numerous risks, as personal information becomes available to Russian security services, while men face the danger of forced military mobilization.
Although for the moment there is no information on forced mobilizations in the newly occupied territories, the practice of forcing male residents to serve in the Russian Army continues in Crimea and in the parts of Lugansk and Donetsk occupied since before 2022.
In addition, those suspected of collaborating with the Ukrainian armed forces face the risk of ending up in a torture chamber or long prison terms.
“Everyone who stays in the temporarily occupied territories lives at risk of being detained, being illegally sentenced and ending up in some basement based on a false denunciation,” Iastrebova stressed.
(With information from EFE)
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