Notification about double citizenship – new infringement on human rights

Starting August 4, 2014 Russian citizens have yet another duty before their country – all Russians having a second citizenship or permanent residence status in another country must notify Russian authorities about this. Failure to notify supposes criminal prosecution, no prison term is to be served, but the violators will be subject to penalty of up to Rb200,000 or compulsory public works for up to 400 hours.

Like other odious laws adopted in Russia over the past year and a half, this new law has proven for the umpteenth time that the situation in Russia will not improve soon if at all, and if it improves, this will be only in some distant perspective. The range of our civil rights is ever diminishing, while the number of duties – including some really ridiculous ones – becomes wider and wider. The fact that a Russian citizen has a second citizenship or residency in a foreign country has been already monitored by the Russian authorities for a long time now, i.e. when people applied for a Russian foreign passport to travel abroad. Now this procedure becomes fixed in a special law and it is not clear what was the real reason for its adoption.

Russian Constitution guarantees equal rights, regardless of whether a Russian citizen has one or more citizenships. But officially Russian Constitution guarantees a lot of things, though sometimes with the disclaimer “unless otherwise regulated by a federal law”. In this particular case, too, there is a federal law, and it reads that “a citizen of the Russian Federation, who also has another citizenship, is considered by the Russian Federation only as a citizen of Russia, except for the cases listed in international treaties of the Russian Federation or federal laws”. So why there was a need to rewrite what had already been written? Now, apparently, a person holding two passports will be considered not simply as a citizen of Russia, but as some “citizen, not a like everyone else”. I fail to think of any other explanations.

Given the fact that the Russian president stated at the last meeting of the Russian Security Council that there exists a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, which, in his opinion, comes from within the country, this move starts to look quite logical. First, the government is trying to ban any criticism of itself, then tries to interfere with or ban the activities of the “inconvenient” non-governmental organizations, forcing them to get registered as “foreign agents”. Now the same pattern may be applied to people with dual citizenship.

At first glance, there is nothing wrong with informing the authorities if they want it so much, that you have citizenship of some other country. Many people really don’t understand what’s wrong with this and why: if a person is honest and does not want to hide anything, he should not be afraid to notify the authorities. But the fact is that the adoption of such laws always brings restrictions and discrimination. Historically compilation of any registers and lists in our country ended up in some trouble for those listed, and, in most cases exactly for the honest people who hid nothing. Moreover, in a situation when the state wages a very real war against some “fifth column”, such a development seems quite probable. And if now the state forbids to engage in some activities it finds objectionable using foreign financing, the next step may be to further prohibit something, for example, to refuse the rights to vote or to go abroad to those who have a second citizenship. Isn’t there a possibility that such a person is an agent of another country and goes abroad for a reason, in order to get instructions on how to undermine our constitutional system? And potentially any such individual may pose a threat to Russia’s security, doesn’t he?

Of course, it’s all just guesswork. The only undeniable fact here is that the duties of citizens before Russian authorities increase infinitely, while the government itself is not in a hurry to observe its duties before people or take responsibility for its failures.

by Sergey Mikheyev

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