Kyiv has assailed Moscow over a presidential decree allowing goods produced in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists to be sold more easily in Russia, calling it a "gross interference” in the country’s internal affairs and a violation of international law.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on November 16 that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree violated Russia's commitments under the Minsk cease-fire deals aimed at putting an end to an ongoing seven-year conflict in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk that has claimed more than 13,200 lives since April 2014.
The decree, which was posted on Russia’s official portal of legal information on November 15 amid Western concerns over Russian military activities in and around Ukraine, “clearly demonstrates Russia's purposeful policy to pull the temporarily occupied territories of our state to its economic, political, electoral, and information space,” the statement reads.
The Ukrainian ministry said it had sent a relevant “note of protest” to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
In his decree, Putin ordered the government to lift curbs on exports and imports of goods between Russia and parts of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are held by the separatists.
The Kremlin justified the move by citing the repercussions of the economic blockade between the separatist-held areas and the rest of Ukraine, as well as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
A separatist representative in Luhansk, Rodion Miroshnik, hailed the move as a "serious step toward integration with Russia," while Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin spoke of an "important step in support."
Since 2019, residents of the breakaway areas have been able to obtain Russian passports through a simplified procedure, sparking harsh criticism from Kyiv and Western governments which accused Moscow of trying to further destabilize the situation in Ukraine's east.