http://central.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_ca/features/2019/05/13/feature-01
| Politics

Russia's fast-track citizenship for separatists: a wake-up call for Central Asia

By Kanat Altynbayev


Kyrgyz and Russian passports are shown. [Russian Interior Ministry]

Kyrgyz and Russian passports are shown. [Russian Interior Ministry]

ALMATY -- The Kremlin's efforts to make it easier for Ukrainian separatists to obtain Russian citizenship is a warning for Central Asian countries looking to leave Moscow's sphere of influence, say observers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on April 24 setting up a simplified, three-month-long process to grant Russian citizenship to residents of the self-proclaimed, pro-Russian Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) in eastern Ukraine.

More than 2.2 million residents lived in the DPR and more than 1.4 million in the LPR, according to official statistics. Neither region has received diplomatic recognition by United Nations (UN) member states.


In recent years, Russia has eased requirements in granting citizenship to Kazakhs, but many fear this might be a prelude to the type of adventurism the Kremlin is conducting in Ukraine. [Russian Interior Ministry]

In recent years, Russia has eased requirements in granting citizenship to Kazakhs, but many fear this might be a prelude to the type of adventurism the Kremlin is conducting in Ukraine. [Russian Interior Ministry]

The move waives a Russian language examination, background check and requirement of five years' residency in Russia. Those seeking Russian citizenship from those areas need submit only an abbreviated list of basic documents, such as an application and proof of identity.

Days after that announcement, Putin said he was "thinking" about providing citizenship to "all citizens of Ukraine", and then on May 1, the Kremlin published a new decree adding several categories of Ukrainian nationals that would have the right to receive a Russian passport within three months of applying for one.

Pressure on Ukraine

Presidential aide Vladislav Surkov described Putin's decree as an "inevitable" step to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine.

Still, in Ukraine, Putin's decision has been viewed as an attempt to force the new Ukrainian government, particularly President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to grant special status to Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ukrainian analysts are drawing parallels between Russia's new citizenship policy toward Ukrainian citizens and events in the Russia-occupied Georgian regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In the 1990s, Moscow granted large numbers of residents in Abkhazia and South Ossetia Russian citizenship. In 2008, protection of Russian citizens was one Kremlin pretext, among several, for invading Georgia.

"Putin's decree on issuing passports in LDPR [Luhansk and Donetsk] is a direct message to Zelenskyy that the Kremlin is willing to follow the scenario in Ossetia and Abkhazia with all its ensuing consequences," said Kirill Molchanov, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute of Analysis and Management of Policy in Kyiv, on his Facebook page.

A wake-up call for Central Asia

The Kremlin's intrusive actions in eastern Ukraine should be a wake-up call for Central Asia, say Central Asian analysts.

The risk of Russian intervention using this tactic mainly concerns Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which have a significant proportion of Russians or Russian speakers.

As of January 2019, 3.6 million ethnic Russians lived in Kazakhstan, or 20% of the population, and about 350,000 in Kyrgyzstan, or about 5.5% of its population, according to official statistics from each country.

"We remind the whole non-Russian world that we do not abandon our own people," said Pyotr Tolstoy, a State Duma deputy chairman and presenter on the pro-Kremlin Channel One, on April 28 while commenting on Russia's new policy.

The Kremlin already has invoked such rhetoric to justify the use of force on foreign soil.

In 2014, Russia added an item to its military doctrine on the option to use force in foreign countries for the purpose of defending its own citizens, Marat Yesekeyev, a historian from Nur-Sultan, told Caravanserai.

"In distributing Russian passports to the citizens of neighbouring countries, Moscow is ensuring in advance that it has a rationale for a potential invasion in a crisis," he said.

Risk in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan faces many of the same conditions that Ukraine did before Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, according to some observers.

The Georgian and Ukrainian scenarios could theoretically be repeated in Kazakhstan if a pro-Western politician takes power, the International Centre for Defence and Security, an Estonian think-tank, has noted.

In the northern Kazakh provinces that border Russia, ethnic Russians make up more than half of the population. That demographic concern was a key factor behind the 1998 move of the capital from Almaty in the south to Akmola (renamed Astana and then Nur-Sultan) in the north.

It was also the basis for a government programme to resettle residents of the predominantly Kazakh-speaking south to the north.

In recent years, Russia has eased requirements in granting citizenship to Kazakhs.

Many Kazakhs already hold two passports: a Kazakh one and a Russian one, Ulan Shamshet, a civic activist from Almaty and leader of the Antigeptil environmental movement, told Caravanserai.

"The majority of northerners [residents of Kazakhstan's northern regions] live in a Russian world ... You need to be prepared for any situation," he said of the thinking behind acquisition of two passports.

The Kazakh government "is under the Kremlin's influence", so it has not solved the problem, Shamshet said.

Russia preparing for 'crisis'

Meanwhile, Kyrgyz analysts also perceive a threat to their country's national security in Russia's passport policy.

Kyrgyzstan allows dual citizenship, and many Kyrgyz who work in Russia also hold Russian citizenship to make it easier to get a job. In May 2018, the state-run Moscow newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported that a tenth of Kyrgyz residents hold Russian citizenship.

Russia's passport policy is a modern-day Anschluss, when a country makes part of the population of another state its own, said Askat Dukenbayev, a Bishkek-based political analyst, citing the Nazi German annexation of Austria in 1938.

"[Kyrgyz] citizens obtain Russian citizenship of their own volition, yet this means that they are taking on definite commitments to the Russian government, including participating in foreign policy actions of the Putin regime," he added.

"In a crisis Russia can use the slogan 'we do not abandon our own people' with regard to Kyrgyzstan," he said.

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| 2019-08-19

Why do you misinform people?

Reply
| 2019-07-05

I don't like the article since it obviously has a double undertone. Don't beat a dead horse when everything is so shaky and vulnerable in this world. The collapse of the [Soviet] Union created a great many problems but did not erase reasonable people's memories about friendship and life together... It is no coincidence that people are striving to become Russian citizens because they associate this country with the [Soviet] Union and realise they will be protected and live peacefully with their families there. Facilities where people can apply for Russian citizenship are simply overcrowded... Leave people alone and let them shape their lives. You'd better work on living conditions so that people don't want to flee. We were all born in a big country, the USSR. We all have things to honour and remember. No one can destroy the friendship between people of different nationalities and faith! So get rid of the nonsensical conclusions from "literate experts" -- better to think [for yourself]. Think about what you are doing and why the flow of people striving to receive Russian citizenship is growing rather than dwindling.

Reply
| 2019-07-01

I am from Kazakhstan, fuck Russia. It's better to be with Britain

Reply
| 2019-06-20

Trust in Russia is at zero.

Reply
| 2019-06-20

You are talking nonsense. Do you believe it yourself?

Reply
| 2019-06-18

[I hope] Russia collapses sooner

Reply
| 2019-06-29

Dream on

Reply
| 2019-06-17

Proper Kazakhs and Kyrgyz should be more active and shut up the nationalists writing such articles and advancing such rhetoric in good time.

Reply
| 2019-06-11

We had been one family for many years; brotherhood with Russia is in our genes. I feel sorry that such articles sow mistrust and hatred towards the country that helped us become people. If not for Russia helping fight illiteracy in our country, developing our culture, introducing healthcare, we would have had a very different, negative reality, pals.

Reply
| 2019-07-04

If it were not for the Grand Duchy of Moscow, there could be 35 million more Kazakhs today. And the nation would have developed in step with the rest of progressive humanity. Kazakh intelligentsia was totally annihilated by the Moscow empire and Bolsheviks.
The environment of Kazakhstan has suffered much more because of the Kremlin's industrialisation policies. Flora and fauna are in exponential decline. The land in many regions is inarable. Is this the Moscow legacy that you find valuable? You are subjective and brainwashed by Kremlin propaganda.

Reply
| 2019-07-06

If it were not for the Grand Duchy of Moscow, Kazakhs would not exist in their current form. Learn history.

Reply
| 2019-07-31

Exactly

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| 2019-05-24

It's impossible. Who lives in Russian cities anyway, I mean Asians? No one cares about them. It's about Khokhols [derogatory term for Ukrainians]. Frost-proof Khokhols are needed in Siberia. Can it be otherwise?

Reply
| 2019-05-19

You'd better take your Russians back

Reply
| 2019-05-26

I've seen many morons like you recently. Are Russians the bane of your existence or do you have nothing to eat because of them, you scuuum?

Reply
| 2019-06-14

THERE WILL BE NO YOU WITHOUT RUSSIANS, ASSHOLE! YOU ARE NOBODY WITHOUT RUSSIA!!!

Reply
| 2019-06-20

Your Russia is brown feces

Reply
| 2019-06-29

You are that very brown feces, look at the mirror!

Reply
| 2019-07-31

Buy residences of equal value for us, and we will leave

Reply
| 2019-05-19

Spooky stories by Europe and the USA yet again. Ukraine didn't exist as a state. Some European countries will claim the rest of the Ukrainian territory. And the national borders will be drawn like they were 1,000 years ago.

Reply
| 2019-05-17

about two citizenship in Kazakhstan is prohibited. even though if they have i mean north Kazakhstan people will get Russian passport, they will lose Kazakhstan citizenship.

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| 2019-05-17

Who's concerned? What nonsense! Your sponsor is the USA (per your web-site), I get it, but don't misinform [the audience] and write good things about the USA only. I shuffled through your gross site and noticed there was neither a single bad comment about the United States nor a good comment about Russia

Reply
| 2019-05-18

Caravanserai has been working for the American intelligence for a long while already

Reply
| 2019-05-15

And Russia obviously doesn't want to take its Russians back. Means [Russia] is looking for trouble

Reply
| 2019-05-15

It is a natural process when the majority of the population in these states can't hope for social equality from their government. [We all seek what's better]...

Reply
| 2019-05-13

The so-called "Russia" will soon reach its end! Fascism will fail!

Reply
| 2019-05-15

You're a moron

Reply
| 2019-05-22

You are the stupidest of all morons

Reply