KHARKIV, Ukraine — As Russian missiles struck a key Ukrainian metropolis, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Monday increasing a fast-track process to make Russian citizenship accessible to all Ukrainians, yet one more effort to increase Moscow’s affect in war-torn Ukraine.
Till not too long ago, solely residents of Ukraine’s jap Donetsk and Luhansk areas, in addition to residents of the southern Zaporizhzhia and the Kherson areas, giant components of which are actually below Russian management, had been eligible for the simplified passport process.
Ukrainian officers haven’t but reacted to Putin’s announcement. The decree Monday additionally applies for any stateless residents at present in Ukraine.
Between 2019, when the process was first launched for the residents of Donetsk and Luhansk, and this yr, greater than 720,000 individuals dwelling within the rebel-held areas within the two areas — about 18 p.c of the inhabitants – have obtained Russian passports.
In late Might, three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the fast-track process was additionally supplied to residents of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson areas and a month in the past, the primary Russian passports had been reportedly handed on the market.
The transfer by Putin got here as Russian shelling of Ukraine’s second-largest metropolis killed no less than six individuals on Monday and injured 31 others, prosecutors and native officers stated. Hours earlier, Russian troops launched three missile strikes on Kharkiv, which one official described as “absolute terrorism.”
Kharkiv regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov stated on Telegram that the shelling got here from a number of rocket launchers, and people hospitalized for accidents within the assaults included youngsters aged 4 and 16.
“Solely civilian constructions — a shopping mall and homes of peaceable Kharkiv residents — got here below the hearth of the Russians. A number of shells hit the yards of personal homes. Garages and vehicles had been additionally destroyed, a number of fires broke out,” Syniehubov wrote.
Earlier, he stated one of many missiles the Russian forces launched on Kharkiv in a single day destroyed a faculty, one other hit a residential constructing, whereas the third landed close to warehouse services.
“All [three were launched] solely on civilian objects, that is absolute terrorism!” Syniehubov stated.
Kharkiv resident Alexander Peresolin stated the assaults got here with out warning, inflicting him to lose consciousness.
“I used to be sitting and speaking to my spouse,” he stated. “I didn’t perceive what occurred.”
Peresolin stated neighbors carried him to the basement, the place he later regained consciousness.
The strikes got here simply two days after a Russian rocket assault struck residence buildings in jap Ukraine, killing no less than 24 individuals within the city of Chasiv Yar. A complete of 9 individuals have been rescued from the rubble however extra are nonetheless believed trapped, emergency officers stated. The assault late Saturday destroyed three buildings in a residential quarter used principally by individuals who work in close by factories.
Russian assaults have additionally continued in jap Ukraine, with Luhansk regional Gov. Serhiy Haidai saying on Monday that the shelling hit settlements on the border with the Donetsk area. Russian forces carried out 5 missile strikes and 4 rounds of shelling within the space, he stated.
The Luhansk and Donetsk areas collectively make up Ukraine’s jap industrial heartland often known as the Donbas, the place separatist rebels have fought Ukrainian forces since 2014. Earlier this month, Russia captured the final main stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, the town of Lysychansk.
The British navy stated Monday that Russian troops had been being stretched skinny. The Protection Ministry tweeted that on-line movies steered no less than one Russian tank brigade was “mentally and bodily exhausted” as that they had been on energetic fight responsibility since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
Additionally Monday, the principle Russian fuel pipeline to Germany started a 10-day closure for upkeep, heightening European fears that Moscow could not flip the circulation again on after its completion. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline runs below the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany and is the latter’s essential supply of Russian fuel. Gasoline is often despatched onward to different international locations as properly. It’s scheduled to be out of motion till July 21.
German officers are suspicious about Russia’s intentions, significantly after Russia’s large vitality agency Gazprom final month lowered the fuel circulation via Nord Stream 1 by 60 p.c.
Story by Mstyslav Chernov. Related Press author Jovana Gec contributed to this report.