April 25 (UPI) -- The United States condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to hasten the process for residents in separatist-occupied Ukraine to gain Russian citizenship, saying the move violates Ukraine's sovereignty.
"The United States condemns today's decision by President Putin to provide expedited Russian citizenship to Ukrainians living in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine," the State Department said in a statement Wednesday. "Russia, through this highly provocative action, is intensifying its assault on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
On Wednesday, Putin signed a decree allowing for residents of certain regions of southeastern Ukraine to apply for Russian citizenship through a simplified procedure, Russia's state-run TASS news agency report.
"Individuals permanently residing in certain areas of Ukraine's Donetsk and Lugansk regions have the right to apply for Russian citizenship under a simplified procedure," the decree said.
The decree was a "brutal violation of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine and a complete trampling upon its obligations in the framework of the Minsk agreements," he said, referring to the agreements signed in 2014 and 2015 to brought a cease fire to the conflict in Ukraine's Donbas region.
Russia also annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that Putin's decision creates a "serious obstacle" to the Minsk agreements, which also calls for the reintegration of the Donbas region.
"This comes just three days after the Ukrainian people overwhelmingly elected Volodymyr Zelenskyy the next president of Ukraine," the State Department said. "President-elect Zelenskyy has repeatedly expressed his readiness to engage seriously with Russia to implement the Minsk agreements, and to end the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, which has claimed some 13,000 lives."