Ukraine seeks UN action over Russian passports move

Viktor Medvedchuk

Those granted Russian citizenship would have to swear allegiance to Russia.

Language has become a much more sensitive issue since 2014, when a pro-Russian president was toppled in a popular revolt and Russia responded by annexing the Crimea region and backing a pro-Russian separatist uprising in the east. President Vladimir Putin on Thursday defended his decision, saying it will help people stranded in areas where Ukrainian government services are not available.

Russian citizenship rights to Ukrainians amount to a "creeping annexation" of east Ukraine and "consolidation of the total Russian control over the occupied territories", he said. Many do not have an opportunity to move to Ukraine.

"Russia, through this highly provocative action, is intensifying its assault on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity", the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

During the council meeting, Heusgen pointedly told the Russian ambassador that Moscow could have greeted the new Ukrainian president with "rhetorical flowers" to show good will instead of the decree.

The United Nations says 1.5 million people have been displaced by the conflict and 3.5 million need humanitarian assistance and protection.

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President-elect Zelensky, a comedian who has played the role of President in a Russian-language drama but until now has had no political experience, often speaks in Russian.

She urged the parties "to undertake steps that would decrease the current tensions and allow the resumption of constructive dialogue".

The decision came just days after the victory in presidential elections of Volodymyr Zelensky, who has called for more global sanctions against Russian Federation over the move.

The Russian leader said he also wanted to know Zelenskiy's position on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, saying he had the impression that Zelenskiy would not implement the terms of a peace deal sealed in Minsk in 2015 despite Ukrainians being exhausted of the war.

He said the decision was no different from what European states did.

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