Turkmenistan changes Russian passport policy after gas deal, official says

By Dzhumaguly Annayev

ASHGABAT -- Turkmenistan amended its policy on issuing travel passports to residents who also hold Russian citizenship under pressure from Moscow, according to a Turkmen State Migration Service (GMS) officer.

Turkmenistan on July 1 resumed issuing travel passports to residents who took Russian citizenship after 2003, said the GMS officer, who identified himself only as Serdar.

That policy change took effect after news broke of an agreement by Russia's Gazprom to buy 5.5 billion cubic metres of Turkmen natural gas per year for five years. Russia had stopped buying Turkmen gas in 2016.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but given recent Turkmen economic hardships, analysts generally predicted that the agreement favoured Russia. The Kremlin apparently preyed on Turkmen vulnerability to impose low gas prices and a domestic policy change in the Kremlin's interest.

"From the timing, one can presume that one of the conditions of the [contract's] signing was Russia forcing Turkmenistan to make concessions on issuing passports to dual citizens," Serdar said on Monday (July 15).

Turkmenistan unilaterally abrogated a treaty with Russia on dual citizenship in 2003. Turkmenistan until now had refused to issue travel passports to Turkmens who took Russian citizenship after 2003 unless they renounced the Russian citizenship.

The measure will affect about 40,000 dual Turkmen-Russian citizens, according to Russian government estimates.

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