Ukraine's Zelenskiy hails diaspora, proposes dual citizenship

January 23, 2024 10:05 am

[Source: Reuters]

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Ukrainians abroad on Monday for their support during Russia’s invasion and proposed changing the constitution to allow dual citizenship.

Zelenskiy said he was submitting legislation to parliament on dual citizenship, in what appeared a symbolic gesture on Unity Day, the anniversary of the shortlived 1919 unification of eastern and western Ukrainian lands in an independent state.

Zelenskiy also marked the day by issuing a decree protecting the rights and identity of some 4 million ethnic Ukrainians in Russia — by far the largest diaspora group.

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Ukraine’s constitution does not give Ukrainian citizens the right to dual citizenship, so millions of people of Ukrainian origin who live abroad are unable to hold Ukrainian passports.

Ukrainian officials often refer to Russia as the aggressor country following its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24 2022 and occupation of swathes of Ukrainian territory.

Zelenskiy has frequently underlined the need for unity as Russia’s war in Ukraine drags on, with Kyiv heavily dependent on military and financial aid from abroad.

Thanking the diaspora for its support, including those who had come to fight for Ukraine, Zelenskiy said the words “I am Ukrainian” carried a special meaning, and hailed the “indomitability of our people.”

Changes to the constitution need the approval of parliament, a process that could take about a year, and the authorisation of the Constitutional court.

The presidential decree applying to ethnic Ukrainians in Russia called for an action plan to help preserve their identity, documentation of “crimes” committed against them and efforts to counter “misinformation” aimed at them.

The decree listed parts of Russia deemed to be historically populated by Ukrainians, including regions along the joint border and areas in and near Krasnodar on the Black Sea coast.

Official figures show up to 4 million ethnic Ukrainians — both permanent and temporary residents — living in Russia, making it by far the largest diaspora group.