The other day, from his secret bunker, Vladimir Putin took part in a virtual meeting of the heads of state of the Eurasian Economic Union. That's what the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia is now called. Before the Russian incursion into Ukraine, the Kremlin had tried to draw Kyiv into this project.

In his opening remarks, the Russian president suggested considering zeroing customs duties on essentials pending the efforts to tackle the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the Russian State Duma started discussing the issue of the possible zeroing of the very countries that are members of this association. Russian deputies passed at first reading a bill streamlining acquisition of Russian citizenship.

The main point is that, in order to get naturalized in Russia, the applicant no longer has to give up on their current citizenship.

The possibility is being worked out at a global level of mass distribution of Russian passports, whose holders could one day suddenly cry out: "Putin, bring in your troops!"

It is curious that this norm was tested in the occupied Donbas, and now they want to expand it to the whole world.

But despite Putin's statements that Russian borders stretch indefinitely, the focus of the latest legislation is primarily on the so-called "compatriots" from the post-Soviet space.

In fact, the possibility is being worked out at a global level of mass distribution of Russian passports, whose holders could one day suddenly cry out: "Putin, bring in your troops!" He will have all the necessary arguments to this end. After all, he'll have to "protect" Russian citizens from potential Belarusian or Kazakh "fascism".

So far, the bill has been adopted at first reading, and applies to persons who have already moved to Russia. But the taste of invasion is so tempting... By second reading, it's planned to provide (as Russian deputies say publicly without being reprimanded by the Kremlin) for the distribution of passports without the need for the applicants to actually move to Russia.

Thus, Russians dream of boosting the number of persons with dual citizenship. Moreover, if they don't need to give up on the citizenship of the country of residence, they can pledge allegiance to Russia secretly. Such allegiance remains a must for any applicant for naturalization in Russia.

The most interesting thing is that, while there is some logic in the norm allowing Ukrainians to retain their citizenship while being naturalized in Russia (it's no secret that Moscow has been claiming dangerous enemy 'banderites' in Zelensky's government), the same move with respect to Belarus and Kazakhstan looks ridiculous as these two states have formally remained Russia's closest allies.

For citizens of Belarus, this will be explained under the pretext of "rapprochement of the two countries – members of the Union State". In fact, though, what the Kremlin actually seeks is to achieve "total rapprochement", up to the absorption of Belarus.

As for the Kazakhs, the pretext is the Russian language being used at the official level and in "everyday life".

The plans for "getting up from their knees" may be slightly changed by plunging oil prices and the novel coronavirus, but the scale of ambition is clear: to keep bringing the "Russian world" to everyone

As for Ukrainians and Moldovans, Russia intends to hand out passports "based on humanitarian considerations and in order to protect rights and freedoms." That is precisely what the explanatory note to the bill says. Perhaps this wording is due to the fact that Russia has already occupied part of Moldova and part of Ukraine, proceeding, of course, from "humanitarian considerations".

It's all easy from that point. It's about repeating Putin's scenario tested in Donbas in relation to all mentioned states: "We will stand behind women and children…"

The plans for "getting up from their knees" may be slightly changed by plunging oil prices and the novel coronavirus, but the scale of ambition is clear: to keep bringing the "Russian world" to everyone despite the fact that, in practice, this always turns out to be "Russian poverty" and death.

Roman Tsymbaliuk