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MPs approve fines for concealing foreign citizenship

Published time: May 20, 2014 13:37
Edited time: May 21, 2014 13:25
AFP Photo / Joel Saget

AFP Photo / Joel Saget

Russia’s State Duma has approved in the second reading the bill introducing criminal responsibility for failing to report obtaining foreign citizenship. In addition, some MPs want all civil servants to report foreign citizenship of close relatives.

The amendments to the Federal Law on Citizenship have been prepared and drafted by MP Andrey Lugovoy of the nationalist party LDPR. They order that any Russian who receives citizenship of a foreign state must report it within 60 days with an official letter to the Federal Migration Service. The regulation also applies to those who have permanent residence permit or any other document sanctioning the permanent living in a foreign country.

However, those of the Russian citizens who permanently live on foreign territory are not required to observe the demands of the bill.

Those who refuse or fail to comply can face criminal prosecution and, in case of conviction, be fined up to 200,000 rubles (over $5,500) or sentenced to up to 400 hours of community service.

The new bill has been opposed by Russian Human Rights activists, including officials from the Presidential Human Rights Council. The chair of the council’s commission for civil society development, Yevgeny Bobrov, told ITAR-TASS that the current draft still has a lot of shortcomings. For example, it is not clear if the rules applied to those who once had foreign citizenship, but already denounced it.

This is especially important in light of the recent accession into the Russian Federation of the Crimean Autonomous Republic, with a population of about 2 million people, formerly Ukrainian citizens.

The rights activists also noted that the level of threat to the community from those who conceal their foreign citizenship hardly justifies criminal responsibility.

During the parliamentary hearings the head of the State Duma Committee for Constitutional Law, Vladimir Pligin (United Russia), noted that criminal responsibility would only apply to those who deliberately conceal their foreign citizenship. Mistakes and failure to file a report in due time would only be punished as an administrative violation.

The Russian MPs also voted to introduce the new law in Crimea from January 1, 2016, giving the residents of peninsula more time to renounce their Ukrainian citizenship.

Lawmaker Oksana Dmitriyeva of the center left Fair Russia party has drafted another amendment to the law ordering all civil servants to report about foreign citizenship of their close relatives.

Dmitriyeva told the mass circulation daily Izvestia that, in her view, relatives permanently residing outside Russia were a factor influencing officials’ decisions, even more so than the ownership of foreign bank accounts or securities, which was directly banned in April last year.

However, during Tuesday voting, the State Duma rejected Dmitriyeva’s amendment as excessive.