Ukraine will change its citizenship law to allow foreign volunteer fighters to become Ukrainians, as well as “all ethnic Ukrainians” around the world to get passports, no matter how many generations different, the President has said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a raft of new laws he had submitted to the national parliament (Verkhovna Rada) on Monday in a speech marking the Ukrainian Day of National Unity, an annual celebration of the short-lived 1917-era Ukrainian People’s Republic. Among the announcements are a serious liberalisation of Ukrainian citizenship law, allowing dual citizens for the first time and opening up passports to the global Ukrainian diaspora, as well as foreign military volunteers.
Speaking from Kyiv in a video address, Zelensky said “Everyone who has Ukrainian blood in their veins… should finally become Ukrainians by passport”. This would be facilitated by the introduction of multiple citizenship for the first time, he said, remarking: “it will allow all ethnic Ukrainians and their descendants from around the world to have our citizenship… all those who, during various emigration waves, were forced to leave their homeland and ended up in Europe, the United States, Canada, countries of Asia and Latin America.”
All those with Ukrainian heritage would be eligible, he said, except “of course” for citizens of “the aggressor country”, Russia.
Also theoretically eligible for Ukraine’s blue passport would be those who volunteered from other nations to fight for Ukraine. Zelensky said: “Foreign volunteers who took up arms to defend Ukraine, all those who fight for Ukraine’s freedom as if it were their homeland. And Ukraine will become such for them. For everyone who can feel that “being in Ukraine” means “being at home”. Not as tourists, but as citizens.”
It has previously been claimed some 20,000 foreigners volunteered to fight for Ukraine, but many who went in the early days of the war subsequently left. As stated, “The romantics [who] were present in February [and] March are gone.” Presumably under the terms of Zelensky’s offer to foreigners to get Ukrainian passports not applying to citizens of “the aggressor country”, Russian anti-Putin fighters who fight for Kyiv won’t be eligible.
It may be the announcement on widening Ukraine’s citizenship to those of the blood, and those volunteers who paid with blood, may have been made with one eye on the future, and rebuilding Ukraine after the hoped-for victory. While the exact extent of battlefield casualties is unclear, it is obvious Ukraine has been massively depopulated by the war, with millions — many of them young women and children — fleeing abroad and in many cases making clear they aren’t that enthusiastic to return home.
Giving passports to the descendants of historic emigres and allowing dual citizenships could sidestep the need to consider visas and attendant questions in the post-war era when trying to encourage migration to rebuild the country.