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Russia: Citizenship Acquisition to Be Simplified

(Sept. 30, 2008) On September 22, 2008, the upper chamber of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, adopted amendments to the Russian Federal Law on Citizenship, aimed at the simplification of the citizenship acquisition procedure for nationals of the former Soviet republics – if they were born in the territory of Russia when it was a part of the Soviet Union – and for their immediate relatives. The requirements of a five-year residency in Russia, knowledge of the Russian language and Constitution, and proof of a legal source of income are waived for such individuals, regardless of their place of residence.

Although legislative records indicate that the Law was passed with the purpose of assisting those compatriots who intend to relocate to Russia, Ukrainian observers suggest that making eight million Ukrainian individuals eligible for Russian citizenship and handing Russian passports to them will be used by Russian authorities for annexation of Ukrainian lands in the future; those Ukrainian observers point to what happened in August 2008 with separatist provinces in the Republic of Georgia. (Ukraine Is the First Target for Russia After Georgia, NEWSRU.COM INFORMATION AGENCY, Sept. 22, 2008, available at In response to this Russian action, a bill on amendments to the Penal Code of Ukraine that would criminalize the voluntary acquisition of a foreign (dual) citizenship was introduced in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's legislature). (Criminal Responsibility for Dual Citizenship Is Proposed, NEWSRU.COM INFORMATION AGENCY, Sept. 11, 2008, available at