Russia Targets 'Traitorous' Dual Citizenship Holders
Published: May 30, 2014 (Issue # 1813)
Russia is about to criminalize failure to declare dual citizenship in what lawmakers say is a bid to crack down on the "fifth column" — and the fifth column is duly scared.
Exposing holders of multiple passports may be the first step to banning dual citizenship, said a holder of U.S. and Russian passports who currently lives on the U.S.' east coast.
"I am just afraid I will not be able to see my friends and family," she said. She asked for her name to be withheld from print for fear of getting into trouble with the Russian bureaucracy.
A bill fast-tracked by the State Duma makes not reporting another citizenship to migration authorities punishable with a fine of up to 200,000 rubles ($5,800) or up to 400 hours of community service.
The bill's authors say it is a preemptive measure against possible subversive action by dissidents in the face of Moscow's deteriorating relations with the West.
But the legislation is borderline unconstitutional and discriminative, targeting thousands of politically uninvolved citizens in a fit of state paranoia straight out of Soviet textbooks, the bill's critics say.
"This is just the state meddling in personal affairs through laws widely seen as repressive," said Svetlana Gannushkina of rights group Memorial.
Holders of multiple citizenships found themselves in the legislative crosshairs in March, when the idea of tracking them was endorsed by President Vladimir Putin.
"We have the right and a need to know who is living in Russia and what they do here," Putin said at the time.
The bill on the issue was rapidly penned by Andrei Lugovoi of pro-Kremlin nationalists LDPR, a former Kremlin guard who earned notoriety in the West when he was fingered as the main suspect in the polonium poisoning of KGB defector and Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. Lugovoi denied involvement.
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