Putin on April 24 signed a decree on expedited procedure for issuing Russian passports in Donbas / Photo from UNIAN

Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak says that Russia's decision to issue Russian passports to residents in Russian-occupied Donbas, eastern Ukraine, could be one of the elements of preparations for a large-scale war against Ukraine.

Commenting on the relevant decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Poltorak said on Ukrainian television: "I think this is a continuation of the creeping occupation of Ukraine. This is another experiment that Russian President Mr. Putin has already tried to conduct in Ukraine. Of course, this can affect both the situation in the country and the occupied territories."

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The minister says that "at any time, under the pretext of protecting Russians, Russia will be able to launch large-scale aggression. And this, the issuance of passports, could be one of the elements of preparations for such actions."

According to Poltorak, Ukraine, in turn, must develop its strong army, give a political assessment of the actions that are taking place today, encourage partners to form an international coalition and put pressure on Russia so that it stops violating international law.

As UNIAN reported earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 24 signed a decree on the expedited procedure for the issue of Russian passports to residents of temporarily occupied Donbas. On April 27, Putin said Russia could simplify the procedure for granting Russian citizenship to all Ukrainians – not only to those who reside in Russia-occupied districts in the east of Ukraine.

On April 29, a center opened in the town of Novoshakhtinsk in Rostov oblast offering services for issuing Russian passports to residents of Russia-occupied districts in Ukraine's Luhansk region. On April 30, a similar center opened in Rostov oblast's village of Pokrovskoye to service residents of the occupied Donetsk region.

On May 1, Putin signed a decree under which more categories of Ukrainian citizens will be able to obtain Russian citizenship with the use of the simplified procedure, in particular, these are citizens of Ukraine who do not have citizenship of another state, as well as stateless persons who were born and permanently resided in Crimea and left the peninsula before March 18, 2014, as well as their children, husbands (wives) and parents.

Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs resolutely demands that the Russian side immediately repeal all unlawful decisions regarding the issue of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens and eliminate their negative consequences.

Passportization is an act by one country, mainly related to Russia, of inducing residents of another country to take up its citizenship and possess its passport.