Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Wednesday providing the service to residents of the Donbas without renouncing their Ukrainian citizenship.
A statement published on the Kremlin's website said Ukrainians living in Luhansk and Donetsk, two border regions with large amounts of Russian-speaking Ukrainians that have defended their autonomy from Kiev with arms for the last five years. Roughly 3.7 million people live in the two regions.
The move will now shorten their wait time to a mere three months and will only be eligible for those holding ID cards printed by the autonomous governments in Donetsk and Luhansk.
The official twitter page of the US Embassy in Kiev tweeted Wednesday that "We condemn Russia's recent absurd and destabilizing decree about Russian passports for Donetsk and Luhansk residents and affirm our strong support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Crimea is Ukraine. Donetsk is Ukraine. Luhansk is Ukraine. We condemn Russia’s recent absurd and destabilizing decree about Russian passports for Donetsk and Luhansk residents and affirm our strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.— U.S. Embassy Kyiv (@USEmbassyKyiv) April 24, 2019Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's president-elect after he won the April 21 election by a landslide, said in a statament that Russia is an "aggressor state" and that the move "does not bring us closer to the main goal of stopping the war."
Zelensky has pledged to end the five-year conflict in the Donbas, which has raged since the Spring of 2014, when a right-wing government seized power in Kiev and made a series of moves antagonizing the country's Russian-speaking minority, most of whom live in the two eastern provinces.