The first Russian passports issued to residents of southern Ukraine

Russia on Saturday handed over its first passports to residents of Kherson, a city occupied by Moscow troops in southern Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported.

The first Russian passports issued to residents of southern Ukraine

Russia on Saturday handed over its first passports to residents of Kherson, a city occupied by Moscow troops in southern Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported.

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According to the official TASS agency, 23 residents of Kherson received during a ceremony a Russian passport, a "simplified procedure" allowed thanks to a decree signed at the end of May by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"All our residents of Kherson want to obtain a passport and citizenship (Russian) as soon as possible", assured during this ceremony Vladimir Saldo, the head of the pro-Russian administration of the region, quoted by TASS.

"It's a new era that opens for us (...) It is the most important document that a person has in his life", he then specified to the Ria Novosti agency.

According to pro-Russian authorities in Kherson, the date of the issuance of these first Russian passports was chosen to coincide with the Russia Day holiday, June 12, a holiday celebrating the country's independence.

The Kherson region was almost entirely conquered by the Russian army at the start of its offensive launched on February 24. The decree signed by the Kremlin at the end of May, authorizing pro-Russian local authorities to issue passports to residents, also concerned the Zaporizhia region partly controlled by Moscow.

Ukraine had denounced the establishment of this special procedure, castigating a "flagrant violation" of its territorial integrity.

"The Russian presidential decree is legally void and will have no consequences" on "the membership of the inhabitants of the territories temporarily occupied by Russia to Ukrainian citizenship", had indicated the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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