Russian passports distributed to Ukrainian citizens in eastern Ukraine

Russian passports distributed to Ukrainian citizens in eastern Ukraine

On July 11, 2019, an employee adjusts blank Russian passports at a Goznak factory in Moscow. ALEXANDER NEMENOV AFP KIEV Russian passports have been distributed in the city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine that had been taken under control by Russian forces earlier this month, Petro Andryushchenko, an advisor to the mayor of Mariupol, said on Wednesday.

Andryushchenko wrote on Facebook that the annexation of Mariupol had begun.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order allowing residents of Ukraine's southern Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions to apply for Russian citizenship under a fast-track process, according to media reports.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the decree of the President of Russia is legally null and void and will have no legal consequences. The ministry said in a statement that the issuance of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens living in the territories seized by Russia is a gross violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, norms and principles of international humanitarian law.

Russia said on Wednesday it is closely monitoring the hostile activities of Japan and reserves the right to strengthen its defense capability in response.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova made a statement about Japan's so-called protest against the joint strategic air patrol by Chinese and Russian air forces on Tuesday.

Cooperation between Russian and Chinese militaries is an important part of the bilateral ties, and the regular joint air patrols have shown the high level of mutual trust and interaction between the two armed forces, she said.

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She said that the patrols were held in strict accordance with international law and fully met the objectives of peace, stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region and the world as a whole.

Zakharova criticized Tokyo for clinging to these already traditional training events, distorting their goals and content, and wrongly linking them with Russia's special military operation in Ukraine.

The diplomat dismissed Japan's so-called protest as absurd and groundless. Zakharova stressed that the Japanese government is accelerating military-political cooperation with the United States and non-regional outsiders from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and is conducting joint military exercises of unprecedented scale near Russian borders.