April 28, 2019 / 8:26 AM / a month ago

Ukrainians will reject Putin’s passport offer - President-elect

KIEV (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin should not expect many Ukrainians to take up his offer of a Russian passport, Ukraine’s President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, while offering Ukrainian citizenship to Russians.

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy reacts during a news conference at his campaign headquarters following a presidential election in Kiev, Ukraine April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo/File Photo

Putin said on Saturday Moscow was considering offering all Ukrainian citizens fast-tracked Russian passports, a move likely to anger some politicians in Ukraine which has been at war with pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

“Ukraine’s difference, in particular, is in the fact that we, Ukrainians, have freedom of speech in our country, free media, and Internet,” Zelenskiy said on Facebook.

“We will provide Ukrainian citizenship to representatives of all peoples who suffer from authoritarian and corrupt regimes. In the first place - the Russians, who today suffer probably the most,” he added.

Putin made his statement days after signing an order to simplify the procedure for obtaining a Russian passport for residents of separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, prompting calls from Kiev for more international sanctions.

Five years of war between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces have killed 13,000 people despite a notional ceasefire signed in 2015.

The Russian leader said he also wanted to know Zelenskiy’s position on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, saying he had the impression that Zelenskiy would not implement the terms of a peace deal sealed in Minsk in 2015 despite Ukrainians being tired of the war.

Zelenskiy said he was ready for talks but he warned Russia against trying to speak with Ukraine and Ukrainians “in the language of threats, military and economic pressure”.

“This is not the best path to ceasefire and unblocking the Minsk process,” he said.

“From our side, we are ready to discuss new conditions for the coexistence of Ukraine and Russia. With the understanding that true normalization will occur only after complete de-occupation. Both Donbass and Crimea”.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Toby Chopra

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