President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the media during press conference. File photo/AFP
President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed an offer by Vladimir Putin to provide passports to Ukrainians, and pledged instead to grant citizenship to Russians who "suffer" under the Kremlin's rule.
The Russian president on Saturday said Moscow was considering plans to make it easier for all Ukrainians to obtain Russian citizenship, after it earlier moved to grant passports in the country's separatist east.
Kiev has been fighting Moscow-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine since 2014 in a war that has killed 13,000.
Zelensky, a comedian who won Ukraine's presidential election last week, responded to Putin's offer by releasing a statement on Facebook late on Saturday.
"We know perfectly well what a Russian passport provides," he said, listing "the right to be arrested for a peaceful protest" and "the right not to have free and competitive elections."
He pledged instead to "give citizenship to representatives of all nations that suffer from authoritarian and corrupt regimes.
"But first and foremost to the Russian people who suffer most of all".
He said that one of the differences between Ukraine and Russia is that "we Ukrainians have freedom of speech, freedom of the media and the internet in our country."
A political novice, Zelensky has pledged to "reboot" peace talks with the separatists that also involve Russia and the West.
Putin has not congratulated Zelensky on his election, but said he is ready to talk with a new Ukrainian leadership and wants to "understand" the actor's position on the conflict.
In his Facebook post, Zelensky warned Russia not to talk with Ukraine "in the language of threats or military or economic pressure."
He previously called for more international sanctions against Moscow in response to Russia providing citizenship to residents of Ukraine's separatist east.
The EU also condemned Moscow's passport scheme, calling it a fresh assault on Ukraine's sovereignty and saying Russia sought to "destabilise" Ukraine after its presidential election.
Putin's decree last week allows people living in Ukraine's unrecognised Donetsk and Lugansk breakaway republics to receive a Russian passport within three months of applying for one.
Zelensky is due to take office by early June.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks with Pope Francis on Thursday, a day before Ukraine’s Catholic leaders meet at the Vatican to discuss the crisis in their country,
Ukraine's new president could regain control over the separatist-controlled east of his country within months and get cheap gas and major investment from Russia if he does a deal with Moscow, the Kremlin's closest ally in Ukraine said.
International investigators are on Wednesday expected to announce charges against several suspects in the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine five years ago in an attack which killed all 298 people on board.
Hong Kong police said on Monday they arrested 36 people, the youngest aged 12, after violence during anti-government demonstrations escalated as protesters hurled Molotov cocktails
Japan’s top government spokesman said on Monday he did not think Tokyo had compromised too much in trade talks with the United States.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said on Monday that China is willing to resolve its trade dispute with the United States through calm negotiations and resolutely opposes the escalation of the conflict,