Staunton, February 20 – Even as Vladimir Putin decreed that Moscow recognizes documents issued by its clients the Donetsk Peoples Republic and the Luhansk Peoples Republic, Russian officials in at least seven places in the Donbass were handing out Russian passports, a repetition of what Moscow did in South Ossetia in 2008.
The two steps are in fact interrelated, Aleksandr Artishchenko and Lidiya Grigoryeva of the Versia portal suggest. They mean that residents of the DNR and LNR can now take Russian citizenship on the basis of their own documents rather than on those of Ukraine, thus easing and accelerating the process (versia.ru/novye-grazhdane-rossii-iz-dnr-i-lnr-zhdut-vezhlivyx-lyudej).
And that in turn suggests three more important things, the two authors say. First, it is an indication that Moscow may very well have had enough with negotiating about the fate of the Donbass and is prepared to live with or at least threaten to live with a frozen conflict there for a long time.
Second, it is a statement of contempt about Western sanctions, an indication to the world that Moscow is no longer impressed by them or affected by them in such a profound way that there is any chance that it will change its policy in Ukraine no matter how long they remain in place.
And third, it creates a situation in which Moscow can, as it has in South Ossetia, gradually move toward annexation, something that Artishchenko and Grigoryeva say there is ever more support for in Russia. They say that there will be demonstrations in support of that across Russia next weekend.
The two add that one need not be “a prophet to predict what is going to follow:” in the immediate future, people behind the borders of the LNR and DNR including the rest of Novorossiya will want these passports because having them will confer real advantages whatever the future may bring.
And one more thing is “not excluded,” the two say. Soon it will be difficult for those who have only a Ukrainian passport to work in Russia, while those with DNR and LNR passports will find it quite easy. That too will have an impact on Ukraine and work to Moscow’s benefit, they argue.