Putin has just signed a law on simplified citizenship for residents of the LDNR.
Any person with LDNR residency documents now has the right to apply for Russian citizenship, and can expect an answer within three months. Citizenship is immediately conferred upon a positive decision.
1. Fundamentally, this is the humanitarian thing to do, as it rescues the Donbass from the state of legal limbo they have resided in since May 2014.
3. By the end of 2019, a large percentage of the LDNR’s 3.7 million residents will give up their their Ukrainian citizenships and become Russian citizens. Zhuchkovsky writes that the monthly applications processing capacity of the Rostov and Voronezh offices opened to process LDNR citizenship applications sums up to 30,000 a month, so in reality the processs will go a lot slower. Moreover, siloviks and bureucrats will have priority, so it will be a few months before ordinary LDNR citizens can get processed.
This conclusively ends the “Putinsliv” theory (the idea promoted by some Russian “zradniks”, such as Strelkov, that the Kremlin was preparing to cut its losses in the Donbass and withdraw its protection). In the aftermath of any putative Operation Storm, the Ukraine would now have a legal framework to mass expel its former citizens who have taken up Russian citizenship (as Croatia did to Serbs in Krajina). So allowing it to happen would now be even riskier than before in terms of political optics.
4. There is an LDNR law that fixes its borders at the frontline, so any military attempt by the Ukrainians to revise Minsk II would presumably be followed by further avalanches of Russian passports in the areas subsequently liberated.
5. Russian liberals already crying over this being a “knife in the back” in Ukraine’s new “peace-orientated” President. As I pointed out, this characterization was quite unlikely to be true.
In the meantime, Poroshenko appears to be exploring options to prevent Zelensky coming to power. Ideas include dismissing the head of the Constitutional Court, which would delay his inauguration. A more promising avenue is a law to strip the President of most of his powers and transfer most of them to the Prime Minister, which was submitted to the Rada soon after the first round of the elections (i.e. when Poroshenko must have realized he was toast).