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Thousands of Ukrainians seek asylum in Russia – migration chief

Published time: June 11, 2014 09:52
People gather outside an office of the Russian federal migration service in Belgorod, June 9, 2014.(Reuters / Vladimir Kornev)

People gather outside an office of the Russian federal migration service in Belgorod, June 9, 2014.(Reuters / Vladimir Kornev)

About 5000 Ukrainian citizens fleeing the civil war have applied for asylum in Russia, and many more are asking the authorities to prolong their visa-free stay, the head of Russia’s Federal Migration Service has said.

Konstantin Romodanovsky told the Russian government’s newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta that the number of asylum-seekers from Ukraine has grown five times compared with the same period last year.

He outlined the top priority of his agency is setting up and maintaining refugee camps. He added that the work was done together with Russian regional authorities. Romodanovsky also said that Russia was receiving little help from international humanitarian organizations despite the fact that several months ago he warned them about the nearing humanitarian disaster. “They could have prepared in advance and rendered some help to the Ukrainian citizens,” the Russian migration chief said.

Romodanovsky also told the newspaper that over a half of the 2 million Crimean residents have received Russian passports. He added that about 20,000 passports were being prepared every day and promised that before the end of July the majority of people on the peninsula will get their documents.

The official noted that the work was proceeding smoothly and there were no reported cases of protest or resistance, even in towns and villages populated mostly by Crimean Tatars – the ethnic minority who were summarily displaced after the WWII for cooperating with the Nazis and who have continued to distrust Russians and Russian authorities after they were allowed to return to the region.

The Russian Migration chief also explained that Ukrainians have a very good chance for receiving Russian citizenship following the changes in Russian law introduced in May. The changes allow for a simplified procedure for Russian speakers and the descendants of people who have lived within the current borders of the Russian Federation.

Another possibility is the compatriots’ resettling program that started in 2007 and has already been used by 190,000 people. This number should grow as the number of Russian regions participating in the program expanded from an initial 12 to 47, and will expand to 51 before the end of the year, Romodanovsky said.

Those who arrive in Russia will also have better opportunities to find work as legislators are poised to develop and pass a law on labor patents for businesses and also the laws on simplified citizenship procedure for investors, specialists in modern professions and foreigners who graduate from Russian universities.

Romodanovsky also defended the recently passed law that introduces criminal responsibility for Russians who conceal second citizenship. He said that the law was not banning anyone from having more than one citizenship, but simply imposed better control connected with other rules that existed in Russia as well as in other countries. These are the rules that forbid foreign citizens to assume certain official posts connected with state secrets or taking strategic decisions.

In addition, the law is not applied to those who live outside Russia on a permanent basis, the migration chief added.