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UKRAINE: Comedian Elected President In Landslide

UKRAINE: Comedian Elected President In Landslide

Putin enacted the new measures "to protect the human and civil rights and freedoms" of the local residents, the Kremlin said, added The Moscow Times.

"If those coming to power in Kiev find the strength to implement the Minsk agreements, we will do all we can to cooperate and we will do everything to normalise the situation in south-eastern Ukraine", Putin said.

"Individuals permanently residing in certain areas of Ukraine's Donetsk and Lugansk regions have the right to apply for Russian citizenship under a simplified procedure", the decree reads.

"Ukraine's new leadership can not fail to understand this", he said.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the new law would deepen divisions within Ukrainian society and impose severe limitations, including in some cases bans, on the use of Russian in Ukrainian public life.

Swathes of the two regions are now under the de facto control of the Moscow-backed rebels, while Kiev says it is determined to re-assert its control, a position backed by most Western countries.

Starting Wednesday, Russia's Interior Ministry is instructed to consider applications within three months of submission. They will have to swear allegiance to Russia when given Russian citizenship.

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Russian Federation has maintained a "peacekeeping" force of 1,200 troops in the Transdniester region along the border with southeastern Ukraine since they were deployed there in 1992 in support of Transdniester separatists who were fighting against Moldovan government forces.

Moscow has already been recognizing documents such as birth certificates or vehicle registrations from the separatist regions' authorities.

The team of President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky - a comedian who has never held a political post - also criticised the Kremlin's move. He is to be inaugurated in early June.

After annexing Crimea in a hastily called referendum, Russia threw its weight behind separatist rebels in the east but stopped short of recognizing their independence vote or, until now, offering Russian citizenship to the local residents, even during the worst of fighting.

Putin and other Russian officials had repeatedly denounced Poroshenko, who made a stronger army and resistance against Russian interference major parts of his policy and his reelection campaign.

That deal was signed by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany in the Belarus capital of Minsk in 2015.