Crimean Tatars and others face citizenship dilemma


Refat Chubarov, head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people has advised Crimean Tatars to not renounce their Ukrainian citizenship in the face of the Russian annexation of the Crimea.  The EU has also just provided a cogent practical reason why any Crimean should think long and hard before spurning Ukrainian citizenship.

Ukraine prohibits dual nationality, and although this ban has frequently been ignored, the present situation involving military occupation by Russia is clearly exceptional.  Chubarov explained to Crimean Tatar civic organizations that Russia will soon be handing up passports, “but since you did not reject your citizenship the Ukrainian government will consider you its citizens.” 

The EU is reported by the Russian ITAR-TASS agency as having banned issue of Schengen or other European visas to people from the Crimea on Russian territory. EU visas will only be issued in Ukraine because the Crimea is a part of Ukraine.  On this basis, such visas will not be issued to Crimeans in Russian passports.

Lawyer and Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Freedom, Maxim Vasin also has sobering advice for fellow Ukrainians from the Crimea.

He points out that Ukrainians have been experiencing difficulties in travelling to Russia for several months. From the beginning of 2014 restrictions were imposed on how long Ukrainians can be in Russia (no more than 90 days in half a year). Since March 15 cases have become more common where Ukrainians are asked to provide an invitation; proof that they have sufficient means or a letter guaranteeing material assistance from the Russian inviting side.  There have also been demands for medical insurance and / or confirmation that they have accommodation.

Vasin is convinced that Crimean should definitely retain their Ukrainian passports (both internal document and passport for travelling abroad.).  He adds that Ukraine’s parliament will be adopting a bill ensuring the rights of citizens on temporarily occupied Ukrainian territory (the Crimea and Sevastopol).

Vasin notes that Ukrainian legislation does not have procedure for rejection of Ukrainian citizenship. He quotes Ukraine’s foreign ministry in saying that receiving a foreign passport is not grounds for being stripped of Ukrainian citizenship, which means that the Ukrainian authorities will regard you as solely a citizen of Ukraine.

It remains unclear whether Crimeans will be able to remain on the peninsula under Russian occupation without taking Russian citizenship.

It is, however, already plain that any calls for withdrawal of Russian troops and reinstatement of Ukrainian rule will be treated as “extremist” and punished by draconian fines or even imprisonment, conceivably for up to 5 years ( more details here )

While Russia might just hesitate before applying such new legislative clamps on freedom of expression with respect to EU, US nationals and others, it is unfortunately more than likely that the Russian law signed by Putin on Dec 20 2013 and in force from May 9 will be used against those Ukrainians in the Crimea who continue to call for Russia’s immediate withdrawal from the territory it has annexed. 

Image from Maxim Vasin’s blog

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