Newly minted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a Jewish comedian and sitcom star, is rejecting Vladimir Putin's offer to provide citizens of Ukraine with Russian passports. Instead, he is turning that offer around to grant citizenship to all Russians who "suffer under the Kremlin's rule."
The Guardian is reporting that Putin said he was considering a plan to make it easier for all citizens of Ukraine to obtain Russian citizenship after initially only offering it to separatists in the eastern part of the country.
Kiev has been fighting Kremlin-supported rebels in the eastern part of Ukraine since 2014 in a war that has killed over 13,000 people.
Zelenskiy, who will be inducted into office in June, responded to Putin's offer on Facebook, saying that when he takes office, he will "give citizenship to representatives of all nations that suffer from authoritarian and corrupt regimes, but first and foremost to the Russian people who suffer most of all."
The newly elected Ukrainian president continued with thanks, but no thanks message addressed to Putin.
"We know perfectly well what a Russian passport provides the right to be arrested for a peaceful protest" and "the right not to have free and competitive elections."Zelenskiy says that Russians will find that in Ukraine, they have freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and unencumbered internet. He adds that he plans to "reboot" peace talks with the separatists in the hopes of creating a united Ukraine.
The EU is condemning Putin's passport scheme, calling it "a fresh assault on Ukraine's sovereignty," and a Russian effort to destabilize Ukraine postelection.
Zelenskiy is promising a new day in Ukraine, as the country will now have a Jewish president as well as a prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, of the same faith, says The Jerusalem Post.
But he also intends to encourage European Union-backed talks with Russia, particularly in an effort to free Ukrainians who have been jailed in Russia, including 24 sailors.
But incumbent Petro Poroshenko, who lost to the political newcomer, warns that Russia will take advantage of Zelenskiy's inexperience and seduce Ukraine back under Russia's influence.
"They believe that with a new inexperienced Ukrainian President, Ukraine could be quickly returned to Russia's orbit of influence."Zelenskiy's critics warn of his close relationship with a powerful oligarch named Ihor Kolomoisky, whose television channel airs the new president's television shows. Critics and EU members will be watching to see how much influence Kolomoisky will have in the new administration.