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MOSCOW, September 13 (Itar-Tass) —— The Interior Ministry will not hurry with inputting fingerprints in biometric passports of Russian citizens, but it is technically prepared for doing that, head of the ministry’s department for information technologies, communications and data protection Lt. Gen. Mikhail Tyurkin said at a Tuesday press conference.
“We are working on the input of fingerprints in biometric passports of Russian citizens, but there is no haste,” he said.
Initially, the technology will be tested on residence permits of foreign citizens and travel documents of refugees, he said, adding that the ministry would also study foreign practices.
The Russian president ordered the formation of an interdepartmental working group led by Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev. The group involves Communications and Media Minister Igor Shchyogolev and representatives of some other departments. They are bound to draft proposals on further development of the passport-and-visa system.
“The working group has decided to test the fingerprint technologies in traveling documents of refugees and residence permits of stateless persons,” Tyurkin said. “That will require alternations in a number of federal laws, but we are technically prepared for the innovation. The pilot project will be held in St. Petersburg.”
“If the pilot proves successful, a decision on adding additional biometric data [in this case, fingerprints] to external passports of Russian citizens will be made in 2012-2013,” he said.
If the European Union makes fingerprints compulsory for people crossing its borders, “we will be ready to input that data [in biometric passport chips] immediately,” he said. “No such demands have been made so far, so Russia will continue making the analysis.”
He also said that about four million biometric passports were issued in Russia per year.
Russian citizens will be issued with biometric passports in any country where Russia has embassies and consulates from the end of 2012, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s consular department Andrei Karlov told Itar-Tass while visiting the Goznak factory workshop producing biometric passports this July.
So far, it is possible to receive external passports of the old make, he noted. “Only 14 Russian embassies and consulates are able to issue biometric passports right now – they are located in Germany, the Baltic republics, Belarus and Israel,” he said. These embassies and consulates issue a half of all external passports to Russian citizens abroad, he added.
Additional equipment is necessary for making biometric passports, Karlov said.
The equipment will be supplied to another 80 Russian embassies and consulates before the end of this year: to the CIS member states, practically the entire Europe and five diplomatic missions in the United States (the embassy and four consulates general).
All the 236 Russian embassies and consulates will be equipped before the end of 2012, and citizens will have the right to choose between regular and biometric passports.
There will be no restrictions on European travel of Russian holders of external passports of the old make in the foreseeable future, Karlov said.
“The West does not impose any restrictions on our citizens traveling with non-biometric passports,” he said, noting that the travel was regulated by interstate agreements. “Such agreements give a list of documents permitting citizens to travel abroad,” he said. “The Russia-EU agreement was signed in 2006 and entered into force on July 1, 2007.”
Goznak annually produces about 20,000 biometric passports. The Interior Ministry said that the new passports complied with international standards and recommendations and were used successfully across the globe.