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Answer to a journalist’s question after the ceremony for presenting the Hero of Labour medals

April 29, 2019, The Kremlin, Moscow

Question: Mr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president-elect, replied to your statement in Beijing that you are prepared to issue Russian passports not only to residents of the Donetsk republic, but also to all Ukrainian citizens. He said that he is prepared to issue passports to all Russian citizens and also to everybody who is ready to defend freedom and democracy.

Vladimir Putin: Did he? Really? Very good. This suggests that we can reach an agreement , perhaps because we have much in common. I have said on many occasions that Ukrainians and Russians are fraternal peoples. And even more: I think this is actually one people with its specific features – cultural, linguistic and historical – but in essence it is a single people. And if we have common citizenship both Russians and Ukrainians would only gain: we will be stronger and more efficient.

As for freedom and so on, this is also an important point. However, in this regard it is probably better to start not with Russia but with, say, Georgia or former Georgians. For example, it would be only fair to return a Ukrainian passport to the man who was formerly a Georgian and now considers himself a Ukrainian. I mean Mikheil Saakashvili. To my mind he was unlawfully deprived of his citizenship and unlawfully expelled from the country. It should be restored and his infringed rights should be reinstated. The same also applies to some other Ukrainian citizens who had to leave the country and go to the promised land fleeing from the current Ukrainian regime.

Question: Speaking about Mr Zelensky’s proposal on the exchange of passports you said you have much in common, short of you are like-minded persons. Could you clarify what you really meant?

Vladimir Putin: But why? Everything is very simple. If Ukraine begins issuing passports to Russian citizens and we in Russia issue passports and grant citizenship to Ukrainians then sooner or later we will inevitably come to the expected result: everybody will have single citizenship. It must be welcomed.

(In Ukrainian.) See you later.

April 29, 2019, The Kremlin, Moscow