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How To Become A Citizen Of Post-Maidan Ukraine

  • Anna Shamanska

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (right) gives Ukrainian citizenship to Russian public figure Maria Gaidar (center) in Kyiv on August 4.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (right) gives Ukrainian citizenship to Russian public figure Maria Gaidar (center) in Kyiv on August 4.

Becoming a Ukrainian citizen may be a difficult bureaucratic process for foreigners, but a few shortcuts have emerged amid the Ukraine crisis.

Here's a look at what you need to do.

DO: Love Odesa

Odesa Oblast is a strategically important Ukrainian region that borders the Black Sea and the Russian-backed breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniester. Considering its ethnic mix, pro-Russian separatists have long seen it as a potential flashpoint. The Black Sea port city has also long been a center of corruption.

This may be one reason Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is bringing in big names from abroad to govern the region.

Maria Gaidar, a 32-year-old Russian activist, is the latest foreigner to have been handed Ukrainian documents directly from President Petro Poroshenko. Since July 17 she has been a deputy governor of the region, tasked with implementing social reforms and battling corruption.

The Harvard-educated Gaidar, who is both an economist and a lawyer by profession, is the daughter of the late Russian acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, who worked on economic reforms after the fall of the Soviet Union.

She received her new citizenship just two months after her boss, Odesa Governor and former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, received his.

There was some speculation that Poroshenko appointed Saakashvili -- whose time in office in Tbilisi was marked by a six-day war with Russia -- largely to irk Russian President Vladimir Putin.

DO: Attempt To Reform The Police

The new Kyiv police force, which replaced the old Soviet-style, largely corrupt militia, has emerged as one of the first tangible reform efforts launched by the post-Maidan government in Ukraine. Approximately 2,000 new law enforcement members were chosen out of about 20,000 applicants through a process that included standardized testing of both physical and intellectual abilities.

Currently only patrolling the streets of Kyiv, the new Ukrainian police will soon appear in other cities, including Odesa, Kharkiv, and Lviv.

The driving force behind the reforms is former Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Ekaterina Zguladze, who received Ukrainian citizenship from Poroshenko in December.

Another former Georgian, Georgy Lortkipanidze, is now said to be bringing Zguladze's reforms to Odesa, where he serves as the chief of police. Lortkipanidze received his Ukrainian citizenship in June, two days after Saakashvili announced his plans to "import" him from Georgia.

In his homeland, Lortkipanidze served as the general of the Georgian police, and at one point was a deputy interior minister.

DO: Become A Minister

The newly elected Ukrainian government swiftly granted citizenship to three foreigners in December. They became Ukrainian ministers that same day.

Aleksandr Kvitashvili became the first Georgian to be granted Ukrainian citizenship in order to take office under Ukraine's new government. He had served as Georgia's health minister and took the same position in Ukraine.

His job, however, did not prove as easy as earning citizenship. Kvitashvili left his post after just seven months, telling the press that he made a mistake by "promising something in the short term, which then became impossible."

Natalie Jaresko, a Chicago-born ethnic Ukrainian, became the country's finance minister after serving in several economic posts with the U.S. State Department, and later working in the Ukrainian private sector. She has lived in Ukraine since 2004.

Lithuanian-Ukrainian investment banker Aivaras Abromavicius, who became Ukraine's minister of economic development and trade, has lived and worked in Kyiv since 2008. He is a co-founder of the Swiss investment company East Capital.

DO: Fight Separatists In Donbas

Even former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers can get Ukrainian citizenship as long as they fight on the right side -- specifically, for Right Sector.

Ilya Bogdanov, a self-declared Russian nationalist and former FSB lieutenant in Vladivostok, came to Ukraine in the summer of 2014, claiming to be "fed up" with Russian propaganda in the media.

He was among the so-called pro-Ukrainian "cyborg" armed volunteers trying to protect Donetsk airport, which fell to pro-Russian separatists in January. He received his Ukrainian citizenship at the end of February -- a decision he was made aware of nine days later, upon returning from the front lines.

Christian Jereghi, a young Russian national, became involved in Ukraine's Maidan as a filmmaker. Later he joined the ranks of the Kyivan Rus volunteer battalion.

He was particularly vocal about the difficulties foreign supporters of Ukraine faced in the country. "Dear Mr. President, I ask for Ukrainian citizenship," he wrote on February 19, his 25th birthday. "I don't want to die defending this country with a Russian passport in my pocket."

He was granted Ukrainian citizenship in May.

But those fighting separatists are not always of the savory sort -- and sometimes can make for embarrassing photo-ops with Ukrainian officials.

In a public ceremony in December 2014, a smiling Poroshenko handed a Ukrainian passport to Serhiy Korotkykh, a Belarusian citizen, thanking the Azov Battalion commander for his "courageous and dedicated service."

Korotkykh is a known far-right radical. News reports tied him to the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity party and the political council of the National-Socialist Society.

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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