Vladimir Putin has signed an executive order granting visa-free travel to anyone living in self-declared separatist republics in eastern Ukraine and recognising all documents issued by militias.
A Kremlin statement said the order was “guided by universally recognised principles and standards of international humanitarian law and in order to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals”.
It gives birth, marriage and death certificates, identification, qualification, vehicle registration certificates and other documents issued by pro-Russian rebel “authorities” official recognition in Russia.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, claimed the recognition was afforded so “Donbass residents” can enter Russia legally, with thousands already fleeing over the border as asylum seekers.
Mr Putin’s order was released hours after the American Vice President told an international conference the US would “hold Russia accountable” for its actions.
Donald Trump made a series of warm statements towards Mr Putin during his campaign and has dismissed allegations of Russian interference in the election, but …