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Russians will soon have to report dual nationality

June 06, 2014, 16:18 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
©  ЕРА/PAUL ZINKEN

MOSCOW, June 06./ITAR-TASS/. Russians will soon pay a fine for concealing dual nationality, according to amendments to the law on Russian citizenship released on Friday and coming into force in 60 days. Discussion and approval of the bill took place amid heated debate in society.

The law proposed by LDPR political party deputy Andrey Lugovoy obliges people to notify the Federal Migration Service (FMS) in written form of a second nationality within 60 days from the date of obtaining the passport. An exception is made for those permanently resident abroad, primarily in Turkmenistan or Transdnistria.

Concealing a second passport will be a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to 200,000 roubles ($5,780) or up to 400 hours of compulsory work. Delayed notification can lead to an administrative fine of 500 - 1,000 roubles ($14.5 - $29).

“The fact of dual nationality clearly diminishes significance of Russian citizenship and affects attitudes to one's own fatherland. It is especially important amid recent geopolitical events where Russia faces aggressive pressure from the West,” Lugovoy said, explaining his initiative.

Many deputies assert that the law is not aimed at punishment but to promote transparency. “The right to a second nationality is not limited in our country but society should have the right to know to which other country and what liabilities a person with dual citizenship have,” said Vice-Speaker Sergey Neverov.

President Vladimir Putin approved of the idea. “We should and have the right to know who lives in Russia and what they are doing,” Putin said on March 27.

Dual nationality in Russia is allowed with some exceptions. In 2001, upper house Federation Council members and lower house deputies were prohibited from obtaining second citizenship or even a permit for residence abroad. In 2006, the ban was extended to deputies at all levels and higher echelons of Russian regions, members of government, the Security Council and the Accounting Chamber. Two years earlier, the law on state civil service in the Russian Federation banned employing people with two passports to positions in federal executive bodies - from deputy ministers to third-category specialists.

People in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol will fall under the new law from January 2016 as, according to the migration commission of the presidential human rights council, it could affect residents of the peninsula that joined Russia in March because the Ukrainian government has made no decision to cease the Crimeans’ Ukrainian nationality.

The law faced a barrage of criticism in the parliamentary Just Russia faction as well as in society.

Head of the human rights organisation Agora, Pavel Chikov said the law aimed “to form a newly designed iron curtain”. The new legislation, the lawyer believes, will inevitably infringe the rights of people with multiple citizenship.

Famous television presenter Vladimir Pozner is puzzled about the law. “I don’t see what the point is,” the journalist said. He has three nationalities and is not trying to conceal them but does not understand why it should be necessary to declare citizenships.

Many, however, take an opposite view and even find the law too lenient.

Higher School of Economics professor Oleg Matveichev thinks a fine for hiding dual nationality is too light a punishment. There is a need for tougher measures in relation to dual nationality, he believes, such as “depriving the people who harmed the country of their Russian citizenship”, he told ITAR-TASS Political Analysis Centre.

“They make use of freedoms, not to mention medical services, and think this all grows on trees. Then the same people start to criticise and oppose the government,” Matveichev says.

Political scientist Viktor Olevich believes that, given the overtly hostile attitude of Western countries to Russia, the government must think of state security to protect itself from potentially harmful influence of people acting in the interests of foreign powers.

“Furthermore, such factors as the constant migration from Russia to the West, comebacks from business trips abroad, and the fact that Russian students and PhD candidates are educated at Western universities, while some business tycoons live abroad, indicate that control over Russian-speaking communities and individuals abroad should be toughened,” said Olevich.

The mood in political and academic circles seems to be shared by the public - 59% of respondents back registration of dual citizenship, according to the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (WCIOM).

ITAR-TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors