Activists in eastern Ukraine’s separatist republic of Luhansk marked Russia Day by carrying a gigantic Russian passport through the streets.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in April signed a decree to expedite the process of naturalization for residents of separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin said Putin enacted the measures to protect the rights of the area’s 3.7 million residents, a majority of whom are Russian speakers.
Video footage from Wednesday’s celebrations of Russia Day in Luhansk shows dozens of people parading the larger-than-life symbol of Russian citizenship through the city’s main square. The 200-square-meter document represented Russia’s fast-tracked passport offer, one activist was quoted by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency as saying.
Soon after, the flash mob can be seen pulling the passport open to reveal the inner page stamped with the date May 12, 2014 — the day the self-proclaimed republic was established.
Russia Day is a public holiday that is celebrated every year on June 12 — the day Russia proclaimed sovereignty from the Soviet Union in 1990.
Earlier this week, an independent poll said a majority of Russian citizens support eastern Ukraine breaking away from Ukraine, either as an independent state or as part of Russia.
More than 13,000 people have been killed in the region since conflict broke out between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in 2014.