Russia claims Oleg Sentsov has ‘dual citizenship’, but that only Russian counts


Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has been forced to acknowledge that imprisoned Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian national, but is still insisting that he also has Russian citizenship.  It is attempting to use the lack of an agreement with Ukraine on dual nationality to insist that ‘de jure’ Sentsov should be treated as Russian.

Sentsov’s lawyer, Dmitry Dindze, told Radio Svoboda’s Crimean Service that the defence had complained to the Prosecutor General’s Office over the document passed by the FSB investigators to the court according to which the Russian Federal Migration Service had recognized Sentsov as a Russian national.

The response from the Prosecutor General’s Office was that Sentsov de facto has dual citizenship, that he is a citizen of both Ukraine and Russia on the basis of the federal constitutional law which was adopted on Crimea.  However, he is de jure a Russian national since there is no bilateral agreement between Ukraine and Russian regarding dual citizenship.

If Ukrainian citizenship is recognized, than the Ukrainian consul in Moscow should be allowed to visit Sentsov.  Dindze says that they await an answer of this.  He is adamant, however, that the defence will continue to insist that Sentsov is a Ukrainian national and that there have been no legal steps enabling the authorities to speak of Russian citizenship.

As reported, the Russian authorities have long been trying to foist Russian citizenship on Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko, two of the four known opponents of Russia’s annexation of Crimea arrested in May 2014 and charged with a dubious ‘terrorist plot’. 

In January a court in Crimea denied Kolchenko’s right to retain Ukrainian citizenship.

Forced Russian citizenship

A court in Russian-occupied Crimea has denied Ukrainian Oleksandr Kolchenko the right to retain Ukrainian citizenship.  The Russian authorities claimed that Kolchenko had himself officially applied for Russian citizenship, but provided no evidence to back this. 

The Prosecutor General’s Office has claimed in the past that Sentsov and Kolchenko are Russian citizens since they did not ‘express any wish’ to retain their Ukrainian citizenship.

Attempts to forcibly impose Russian citizenship on the men have been condemned by human rights groups as a clear breach of Russia’s own legislation and the men’s fundamental rights. They have also been categorically opposed by both Sentsov and Kolchenko.  In July last year Oleg Sentsov stated in court: “I also wish to protest against the attempts to deprive me of Ukrainian citizenship.  I have always been and remain a citizen of Ukraine.  I do not recognize the Russian Federation’s annexation and military seizure of the Crimea. I consider any agreements made by the illegitimate government of the Crimea with the Russian Federation invalid.  I am no serf to be passed over together with the land.  I have not written any applications to take on Russian citizenship and reject my Ukrainian citizenship.

More details about recent developments here: Russian secret trial to convict opponents of Crimean annexation


Halya Coynash

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