The European Union says Russia is trying to gradually absorb parts of eastern Ukraine, according to a document the bloc shared this week with member states.
In the paper, seen by Bloomberg, the EU says steps by the Kremlin such as organizing illegitimate elections and issuing passports to locals are "aimed at de facto integration of Ukraine's non-governmental-controlled areas into Russia."
Read alsoRussia to open Duma polling stations in occupied Donbas – human rights activistsThe EU's foreign-affairs arm, the EEAS, will prepare a report on the matter, according to the paper.
The EU document presents options the bloc could take to strengthen Ukraine's resilience to Russian aggression, including:
- Stepping up support in tackling "hybrid threats including countering cyber threats and disinformation;"
- Helping Ukraine's coronavirus-vaccination program, "especially of vulnerable groups in order to avoid further weakening of the country through a prolonged health and socio-economic crisis;"
- Bolstering energy security to lower dependence on Russia;
- Improving efforts to deny recognition of Russian passports issued to residents of Crimea and parts of Donbas; and
- Considering allowing Ukraine to participate in some EU security projects.
It is noted the EU ambassadors of the bloc's political and security committee had diverging views on the paper when they discussed it Tuesday, according to a separate memo seen by Bloomberg.
One group broadly supported the timing and contents of the options. Another said the proposals didn't sufficiently emphasize the reforms Ukraine must implement itself.
Russian passports in occupied Donbas
- Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 24, 2019, signed a decree on a simplified procedure for granting Russian citizenship to residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Donbas. The first passports under this procedure were issued on July 14, 2019.
- The documents are issued in Russia's Rostov region.
- The Eastern Human Rights Group (EHRG) in November 2020 said over 164,000 Ukrainians living in the temporarily occupied territories of Donbas had obtained Russian passports.
- The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has extended the list of Russian passports that are not recognized by Ukrainian authorities.
- Earlier, Russia said almost 530,000 residents of Donbas had obtained Russian passports.