Russia offers passports to east Ukraine, president-elect decries ‘aggressor state’

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ST PETERSBURG, Russia/KIEV: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order on Wednesday simplifying the procedure for obtaining a Russian passport for residents of separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, prompting calls from Kiev for more international sanctions. Five years of war between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces have killed 13,000 people despite a notional ceasefire signed in 2015.

Russia`s move is an early test for the Ukrainian president-elect, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who won a landslide victory in Sunday`s presidential election and has pledged to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Zelenskiy said Putin`s action showed Russia was waging war in Ukraine and brought the two sides no closer to peace. He called for the international community to threaten Russia with more sanctions. Outgoing President Petro Poroshenko said Russia might try to annex the Donbass region.

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