An investigation by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has revealed a wide-ranging campaign by the Kremlin to coerce Ukrainians in occupied territories to adopt Russian citizenship. Ukrainians reportedly face denial of healthcare and freedom of movement unless they acquire Russian passports. The EBU, an alliance of public service media, including the BBC, conducted interviews with refugees, uncovering accounts of relentless pro-Russian propaganda and pressure tactics to assimilate Ukrainians.
Refugees, such as Larysa and Lyudmyla, shared experiences of friends being denied medical treatment and broken arms being treated only after obtaining Russian passports. The pressure extends to essential services like pensions and food, with checkpoints enforcing the requirement for Russian passports.
Lyudmyla and her friend Oksana revealed that they left their homes because their children were being compelled to study the Russian school curriculum. Failure to comply with this requirement, including not having a Russian passport, resulted in threats of having children taken away and parents losing parental rights.
Historian Artem Petryk described the Kremlin’s efforts to influence the local population during the occupation of Kherson in 2022. The occupiers seized control of television, introduced the Russian school curriculum, and imposed a distorted view of history that glorified Russia. Propaganda efforts included billboards and slogans promoting a Russian identity.
The report highlights concerns that Russia’s actions mirror previous instances, such as providing passports to residents in breakaway Georgian regions, eventually used to justify its 2008 invasion of Georgia. The Kremlin’s campaign has sparked international scrutiny and allegations of potential violations of international humanitarian law.