Russia has issued 1.5 million passports in occupied Ukrainian territories: PM

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Russia has handed out 1.5 million passports in territories it occupies in Ukraine, Moscow’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Tuesday.

People from the occupied regions told AFP this month that they had been pressured into taking up a Russian passport, necessary to fill out basic bureaucracy.

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Kyiv has likened the passport handouts to efforts to suppress Ukrainian identity.

“From October last year, almost 1.5 million people received a Russian passport in the new regions,” Mishustin told a government meeting.

He referred to the parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions that are under Russian control.

Moscow has claimed to have annexed the four regions, despite not controlling them fully.

“It is important that all their residents feel real changes taking place in cities and towns, see that streets and houses are gradually being restored,” he said.

Russia has for years been issuing passports to people living in the eastern Donbas areas held by pro-Moscow separatists since 2014 as well as in annexed Crimea.

With its full-scale offensive in Ukraine launched last February, the Kremlin has accelerated that drive.

The EU has said it will not recognize Russian passports issued by Moscow in the “illegally-occupied” regions of Ukraine.

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