Can Now Offer Russian Citizenship to Eight Million Ukrainians
by Paul Goble
series: Crisis in the Caucasus - 2008
The Russian / Georgian Conflict and Its Impact on Azerbaijan
Window on Eurasia: Original
Vienna, September 23
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." http://delo.ua/news/87411/
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.
Unfortunately, the comments of Russian officials in recent days
suggest that there is little reason to put a positive interpretation
on this new act. Indeed, in an article carried in Ukrainian papers
over the weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov provides
the basis for just the opposite reading. http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/0/5F3D95AD906E3A42C32574CA002A4FA2
The Russian minister sharply criticized Kyiv for its failure
to criticize Georgia and for its assumptions that what Moscow
had done there was not "a response to aggression" but
rather an indication of some kind of grand imperial design that
gives Ukraine no choice but to seek protection by aligning with
Not only is this insinuation entirely false, Lavrov said, but
it is being made by those in Kyiv who want to push Ukraine into
NATO "in spite of the opinion of the overwhelming majority
of its population and elementary democratic procedures"
but one that will divide Ukraine from its Russian neighbor.
And Russia has demonstrated, the minister argued, that it is
interested only in protecting people as it did in Georgia and
making sure that "Tbilisi will not use force again."
Moscow has no "hidden agenda," something he said had
been proved by President Dmitry Medvedev's agreement with French
President Nicholas Sarkozy.
But in words that many Ukrainians and others will see as an indication
that Moscow does have a broader agenda if no longer a "hidden"
one, the Russian foreign minister said that "the entrance
of Ukraine into NATO would bring its wake a deep crisis in Russian-Ukrainian
relations" and have "the most negative" impact
on European security more generally.
(1) And then the minister added that Russia has some "serious
concerns" about how Ukraine is acting domestically: First
of all, he said, Moscow is very disturbed by "the discrimination
and exclusion from all spheres of life of the Russian language,"
which restrict "the rights of millions of Russian-language
citizens of Ukraine.
(2) Second, he said, "we can hardly agree with the pseudo-historical
treatment by Kyiv of the events connected with the famine of
the 1930s in the USSR as some kind of 'genocide of the Ukrainian
people'," an approach which slanders the memories of "millions
of famine victims of other nationalities."
(3) And third, Lavrov concluded what many in Kyiv and elsewhere
will see as a bill of indictment of the current Ukrainian government,
the Russian government currently notes "with regret, "the
growth of Russophobic and also anti-Semitic attitudes among the
nationalistically inclined organizations of Ukraine."
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