Ukrainian sep­a­ratist pass­ports rec­og­nized

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY AN­DREW ROTH an­drew.roth@wash­post.com

moscow — Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on Satur­day signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der rec­og­niz­ing pass­ports and other doc­u­ments is­sued by Rus­sian-backed sep­a­ratists in south­east Ukraine, a con­tro­ver­sial step that brings Moscow closer to de facto recog­ni­tion of the break­away re­publics.

The move trig­gered protests from Kiev and will pro­vide an early test of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s abil­ity to man­age the three-year-old con­flict as it seeks to re­as­sure al­lies that it will con­tinue to coun­ter­bal­ance Rus­sian in­flu­ence in East­ern Europe.

The ex­ec­u­tive or­der, which was posted Satur­day on the Krem­lin’s web­site, said that those liv­ing in ar­eas of south­east Ukraine out­side of Kiev’s con­trol “can en­ter and leave the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion with­out ap­ply­ing for visas upon show­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments (birth cer­tifi­cates for chil­dren un­der the age of 16), is­sued by the cor­re­spond­ing au­thor­i­ties which are valid in the said dis­tricts.”

Those au­thor­i­ties are the Donetsk Peo­ple’s Repub­lic and Luhansk Peo­ple’s Repub­lic, the heav­ily mil­i­ta­rized sep­a­ratist gov­ern­ments that ap­peared in 2014 af­ter a rev­o­lu­tion in Kiev and Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea.

The West has ac­cused them of serv­ing as Rus­sian prox­ies and Moscow of sup­ply­ing them with Rus­sian sol­diers and arms.

Like Crimea, they held con­tro­ver­sial ref­er­en­dums and sought to join Rus­sia for­mally, but Moscow de­murred. Since then, they have been locked in a grind­ing con­flict with Kiev that has killed more than 10,000, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions. A peace process called the Minsk Agree­ment, agreed upon in 2015, pro­vides steps out of the con­flict, but it has largely gone un­ful­filled.

“This step by Krem­lin com­pletely de­stroys the Minsk process and is equal to Rus­sia’s state­ment about an exit from that,” Olek­sandr Turchynov, sec­re­tary of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity and De­fense Coun­cil of Ukraine, said in a state­ment.

Moscow said it was mo­ti­vated by hu­man­i­tar­ian con­cerns, say­ing the de­ci­sion would give res­i­dents of east Ukraine ac­cess to Rus­sian pub­lic ser­vices and air and rail travel. Rus­sia had pre­vi­ously de­nied qui­etly al­low­ing the use of doc­u­ments from the sep­a­ratist re­publics, al­though an in­ves­ti­ga­tion ear­lier last year by the RBC tele­vi­sion sta­tion showed that the doc­u­ments were of­ten ac­cepted in­stead of Rus­sian pass­ports.

The ex­ec­u­tive or­der also cov­ers li­cense plates, mar­riage and di­vorce cer­tifi­cates, and univer­sity di­plo­mas is­sued in south­east Ukraine. Pence gives as­sur­ance on NATO Says U.S. pos­ture un­changed. A16

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