The Kremlin has launched a wide-ranging campaign to force Ukrainians in occupied territories to become Russian, an investigation has found.
Ukrainians are being denied healthcare and free movement unless they take up Russian citizenship, evidence suggests.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), an alliance of public service media including the BBC, interviewed refugees for the investigation.
They spoke of relentless pro-Russian propaganda in the occupied lands.
One refugee from the occupied territories, Larysa, told the EBU’s Investigative Journalism Network that one of her friends was not provided with insulin for her diabetes – a key part of treatment – until she applied for a Russian passport.
Another friend had to become a Russian citizen to have her broken arm treated, Larysa said.
She also spoke of other types of pressure forcing Ukrainians to assimilate as Russians.
“Pensions are not provided without Russian passports, food is not provided without Russian passports, and medical services are out of the question. There are lots of checkpoints on the roads. And every time they stop you, they check your documents, and then say they will not let you through without a Russian passport next time.
“So people have to obtain these papers. Because if someone, say, has cows in one village and sells milk in another, it is impossible to move between villages.”
Larysa’s account of pressure to obtain Russian passports is corroborated by other refugees, such as Lyudmyla (not her real name) from the occupied part of Zaporizhzhia region.
“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. So people are forced to obtain them. Retired people are forced to obtain Russian passports to receive pensions. It is a matter of survival.”