Lately, the Turkmen government has been putting the squeeze on Russian passport holders in Turkmenistan, trying to get them to drop their Russian papers and accept Turkmen passports to access the benefits of citizenship, including travel.
What this means in practice is that people with dual Russian and old Turkmen passports who try to buy tickets to Moscow at the Ashgabat airport are finding out that they cannot travel without a Russian entry visa. Students trying to travel to foreign universities may be stopped at the border and warned about a travel ban.
People with Russian passports still living in Turkmenistan are increasingly feeling the heat:
“This is another reminder that that we have to make a decision whether to renounce Russian citizenship or leave Turkmenistan for good”, – an Ashgabat resident, a dual national, told chrono-tm.org.
Already, Russians and even some Turkmens with Russian passports are leaving Turkmenistan and essentially going into exile in Russia or other neighboring states, fearful that they may be trapped in Turkmenistan without the right to travel otherwise.
Under various pretexts, Turkmen authorities have been refusing to issue new Turkmen passports to anyone who is still holding a Russian passport. In the last year, they have been demanding that applicants sign papers to renounce their Russian citizenship.
Under past dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, hundreds of thousands of Russians and Russian-speakers left Turkmenistan for good when the Turkmen leader refused to uphold an agreement with Russia on recognition of dual citizenship. The conflict was smoothed over when gas deals were made, but as relations with Moscow have soured and gas purchases have plummeted, the problem has re-surfaced. The Kremlin is not publicly raising the issue and it's not clear they will go to bat for their citizens in Turkmenistan, although some Russian parliamentarians have protested.