World Bulletin/News Desk
Russian President Vladimir Putin approved on Monday legal amendments to make it simpler for Russian speakers in the former Soviet Union to acquire Russian citizenship, the Kremlin said on Monday.
The changes follow Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and tension in the largely Russian-speaking east of Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin overturned decades of post-Cold War diplomacy by announcing last month that Russia has the right to intervene on the territory of its neighbours to protect Russian speakers. He then seized and annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
Moscow has since massed tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, and Kiev and its Western allies say Russian agents are directing the uprising in the east, including the "green men" - heavily armed, masked gunmen in unmarked uniforms.
Eastern Ukraine is largely Russian speaking and many residents are deeply suspicious of the pro-European government that took power in Kiev in February when Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich fled the country after mass protests.
Separatists have declared an independent "People's Republic of Donetsk" in the east's biggest province and have named themselves to official posts in towns and cities, setting up checkpoints and flying Russian flags over government buildings.
Ukraine announced an "anti-terrorist" operation to retake the territory last week, but that modest effort largely collapsed in disarray when a column of paratroops surrendered rifle parts and some armoured vehicles to a separatist crowd.
Kiev has declared an "Easter truce", though it is far from clear it could muster any real force if it tried. The army is ill-equipped, untested and untrained for domestic operations, while the government in Kiev doubts the loyalty of the police.
Washington and Brussels both say they are working on tougher economic measures to impose unless Russia's allies in eastern Ukraine back down, although building a consensus is tricky in Europe where many countries rely on Russian energy exports.
The OSCE, a European security body that includes both NATO members and Russia, has deployed around 100 monitors and mediators in Ukraine in 10 different cities including the capital Kiev and eastern and southern towns.Last Mod: 21 Nisan 2014, 14:06