MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree expanding the list of Ukrainians and citizens of some other countries eligible for fast-tracked Russian passports, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.
The list included Ukrainians who once lived in Ukraine’s Crimea region before it was annexed by Russia in 2014, and citizens of Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan who were born in Russia during the Soviet era.
An earlier Kremlin decree, simplifying the procedure for obtaining a Russian passport for residents of the rebel-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, was signed by Putin on April 24.
That earlier initiative drew a strong rebuke from the European Union.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday condemned Russia’s decision to expand those eligible for fast-track Russian passports as a “flagrant breach of international law and Ukraine’s state sovereignty”.
It said it would not recognize the new documents.
The Kremlin published an expanded list of those eligible to acquire Russian passports within three months, including those who live in “certain territories” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The law is effective from May 1.
The list of those eligible for fast-tracked Russian passports includes Ukrainians who resided in Crimea before it was annexed by Russia from Ukraine - both of them former Soviet republics - in March 2014.
Rebellions broke out against Ukrainian government rule in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014 shortly after a pro-Russian president was toppled in Kiev in a popular revolt.
Moscow provided military help for the separatists in the east, according to evidence gathered by Reuters, though Russian officials have denied providing material support.
Last week, Putin said there was nothing wrong with easing rules for residents of Ukrainian rebel regions to receive Russian passports.
He also said Moscow was considering offering all Ukrainian citizens fast-tracked Russian passports.
Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Natalia Zinets; Editing by Mark Heinrich