Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Moscow Offers Russian Citizenship to Eight Million Ukrainians

September 23, 2008
Paul Goble (Georgian Daily)

Under the terms of new legislation nominally intended to promote the repatriation of "Russian compatriots" and thus help solve Russia's demographic problems, Moscow can now offer Russian Federation citizenship to more than eight million Ukrainians, even though the Ukrainian constitution prohibits dual citizenship.

Had Moscow taken this step six months ago, Verkhovna Rada deputy Kseniya Lyapina told Kyiv's "Delo" yesterday, "it might have been possible to consider this as part of Russia's domestic policy." But after Moscow's invocation of its right to protect Russian citizens in South Ossetia, these changes look like "preparation for aggressive actions".

According to that newspaper, "those who want to receive a Russian passport do not need to live on the territory of the [Russian] Federation for five years, provide evidence of the source of their incomes or demonstrate a knowledge of Russian" if they are former citizens of the USSR and were born on the territory of Russia.

If Ukrainians were to give up their Ukrainian citizenship in order to take Russian citizenship and then move to the Russian Federation, as some demographers and political analysts have suggested is the reason behind the new rules, that would not necessarily create a problem for Kyiv, especially since the number of those likely to do so would not be large.

But if because of these simplified procedures, more Ukrainians take Russian citizenship without giving up their Ukrainian citizenship in violation of the Ukrainian constitution and then remain in Ukraine, Moscow would likely be able to exploit them in the same way it used the presence of dual citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to justify military action.


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