The new decree of the Russian president on the abolition of the expulsion of Ukrainian citizens does not solve the problem of many prisoners convicted in detention centres

On August 27, 2022, a decree of the President of the Russian Federation on the temporary cancellation of the expulsion/deportation of citizens of Ukraine and on the removal of restrictions on the period of their stay in the Russian Federation was signed and entered into force. The decree will ease the plight of many, but by no means of all Ukrainian citizens who cannot leave Russia due to hostilities. For example, those who have served their criminal sentences in the Russian Federation and are due to be deported now continue to languish in Centres for the Temporary Detention of Foreign Nationals (CTDFN), where they were placed “before deportation” – which is obviously impossible to organise.

The full name of the Decree № 585 is “On temporary measures to regulate the legal status of citizens of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic and Ukraine in the Russian Federation.”

The decree abolishes restrictions on the period of stay in Russia for Ukrainian citizens (mandatory for other foreign citizens) and gives them the right to work without obtaining a work permit or a patent, if they undergo mandatory identification (dactyloscopy, photography and medical examination). Citizens of Ukraine who entered before August 27 and have not yet passed personal identification are required to do so within 30 days from the date of publication of the decree. The medical examination includes tests for drug use, the presence of infectious diseases that pose a danger to others, and HIV. Decree № 585 does not clarify the position of those who do not pass a medical examination (for example, of people who have HIV).

The decree is especially important for numerous citizens of Ukraine who are imprisoned in the CTDFN for administrative violations of the migration regime – they have been assigned expulsion, which is impossible to implement. Paragraph 7 of the decree states that the following decisions should not be implemented:

  • on expulsion from the Russian Federation (both in the form of forced expulsion with placement in the CTDFN, and in the form of controlled independent departure);
  • on deportation;
  • on non-permission to enter the country or the undesirability of staying in the Russian Federation;
  • on the reduction of the period of temporary stay in the country

Prior to Decree № 585, the courts acted inconsistently, but often released citizens of Ukraine from the detention centres due to the inability to enforce the decision on expulsion (due to hostilities, closed borders, lack of transport links between countries). The Decree should simplify the procedure for the release of such citizens from CTDFN, decisions on their expulsion should be cancelled.

The decree does not fill the legal gap that another large category of Ukrainian citizens has fallen into: these are those who are placed in detention centres immediately after being released from penitentiary institutions. They are automatically recognized as undesirable in Russia and are subject to deportation. In fact, they receive a new sentence of imprisonment, although they have already served time for a criminal offense. They risk spending 2 years (the maximum term of detention in the CTDFN) in conditions that are often even worse than prison conditions, although the deportation of “undesirable” former prisoners is just as impossible to carry out as the expulsion of administratively convicted. Of course, such people should also be released, since the additional punishment they are forced to serve is illegal.

The decree does not apply to other categories of citizens, including those capable of protests, namely: “persons released from penitentiary institutions or posing a threat to the national security of the Russian Federation, including those advocating for a violent change in the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, or financing, planning terrorist (extremist) acts, assisting in the commission of such acts or committing them, as well as supporting terrorist (extremist) activities by other actions, or encroaching on public order and public security, including participating in an unsanctioned assembly, rally, demonstration, procession or picketing.”