Russia hands out passports to Ukrainians in occupied cities: Report
The decree signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin in May facilitated the passports authorisation. It also concerned the nearby Zaporizhzhya region, which is partly controlled by Moscow's forces.
With no end in sight to the conflict, the Russian authorities on Saturday began handing out passports to the residents living in the occupied city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, news agency Reuters reported citing state-owned local media. Twenty-three Kherson residents have reportedly received their Russian passport at a special event. The development comes as Russia attempts to tighten its hold over the besieged Kherson in a war that has been raging since February. Kherson was one of the first cities that it conquered in the initial days of the war.
In another BBC report, which cited Russia's Tass news agency, Melitopol is another city where this is happening.
The decree signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin in May facilitated the passports authorisation. It also concerned the nearby Zaporizhzhya region, which is partly controlled by Moscow's forces. "All our Kherson residents want to obtain a passport and (Russian) citizenship as soon as possible, " the regional administration's pro-Moscow chief Vladimir Saldo was quoted as saying by TASS, the Russian state-owned news agency.
"It's a new era that is beginning for us... It's the most important document a person can possess in their life," Saldo was quoted in another report by the RIA Novosti agency -- also based in Russia, and run by the state. Meanwhile, the Kherson authorities said the timing of the passport distribution was chosen with Russia Day in mind.
Russia Day falls on Sunday and is a public holiday to mark its independence from the former Soviet Union. It is an occasion for many Russians to display national pride. Ukraine denounced the move as a "flagrant violation" of its territorial integrity, saying President Putin's decree was "legally void".
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Ukraine president Volodomyr Zelenskyy said that while "fierce street fights continue in Severodonetsk," Ukraine's military was gradually liberating territory further west in the Kherson region and had had some successes in Zaporizhzhya too.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, and since then it has been making gradual advancements. The troops had reached the Kyiv border and after failing to make gains there, the forces have moved to the southern and eastern parts of the country now where it already has some local support.
(With agency inputs)