MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree expanding the list of Ukrainians and citizens of some other countries eligible for fast-tracked Russian passports, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.
The initial decree, simplifying the procedure for obtaining a Russian passport for residents of the rebel-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, was signed by Putin on April 24
The move has drawn rebukes from the European Union and Kiev.
The Kremlin on Wednesday published an expanded list of those eligible to acquire Russian passports within three months, including those who live in “certain territories” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The law is effective from the day of signing, May 1.
The list of those eligible for fast-tracked Russian passports also includes Ukrainians who lived in Crimea before it was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in March 2014.
The list also cited citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Syria who were born in Russia during the Soviet era.
Rebellions broke out against Ukrainian government rule in east Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014 shortly after a pro-Russian president was toppled in Kiev in a popular revolt.
Moscow, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region that year, provided military help for the separatists in the east, according to evidence gathered by Reuters, although Russian officials have denied providing material support.
Last week, Putin said there was nothing wrong with easing rules for residents of Ukrainian rebel regions to receive Russian passports.
He also said Moscow was considering offering all Ukrainian citizens fast-tracked Russian passports.
Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Catherine Evans