- Ukrainians in occupied areas have to get Russian passports for medical treatment, per an investigation.
- One woman had to get a Russian passport in order to get her broken arm treated, her friend said.
- Russia has been accused of trying to erase Ukrainian identity in parts of Ukraine it controls.
A Ukrainian woman in an area occupied by Russia had to become a Russian citizen in order to get her broken arm treated, her friend said.
The friend, Larysa, spoke to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which was conducting an investigation and speaking to refugees from the conflict.
The investigation found evidence that the Kremlin has started a widespread effort to force people in the areas of Ukraine it has taken over to become Russian citizens.
Evidence suggests that people in those areas are being denied healthcare and free movement unless they do so, according to the BBC, which is part of the EBU.
Larysa, a refugee from Russia-occupied Ukraine, said her friend was denied treatment for her broken arm unless she got Russian citizenship.
She also said that “pensions are not provided without Russian passports, food is not provided without Russian passports, and medical services are out of the question.”
A different friend of hers was denied insulin for diabetes until she applied for a Russian passport, she added, according to the BBC.
Another refugee, Lyudmyla, from Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, told the EBU that “when you go to a hospital you need to have a Russian passport. If you do not have a Russian passport, they won’t treat you.”
“If you drive your own car and the patrol stops you, and you do not have a Russian passport, they can simply take your car away,” she said, adding: “So people are forced to obtain them. Retired people are forced to obtain Russian passports to receive pensions. It is a matter of survival.”
Ukraine has called Russia’s push to get people in occupied territories to apply for Russian passports “a gross violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, norms, and principles of international humanitarian law.”
The move has also been condemned by rights groups and international law experts.
Nathaniel Raymond, the executive director of the Yale School of Public Health, told CNN in August that Russia’s actions in forcing people to get Russian passports, including by otherwise denying them healthcare, were “classic war crimes.”
“They are restricting or limiting through this process people’s ability to access critical services and resources that Russia is required to allow all people to access, such as healthcare, and humanitarian systems,” he said.
Russia also granted people in Ukraine’s Crimea region Russian passports when it illegally annexed it in 2014.
Lyudmyla and another woman, Oksana, told the EBU that they fled their homes because their children were forced to learn the Russian curriculum in school.
Their claims come after widespread reports that Russia is forcing schools in occupied Ukraine to teach Russia’s curriculum and history.
Russia formally annexed four Ukrainian regions in September 2022, months after it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The move was condemned and not recognized by most of the world.
Russia is accused of trying to erase Ukrainian identity and history in those areas. Reports detail Ukrainian news programs being replaced by pro-Russian ones, and school workers saying their schools were searched for Ukrainian books.
Ukrainians from there have also said they were tortured if they criticized the Russian occupation.