Russian legislators are tripping over themselves to tighten rules on dual citizenship after President Vladimir Putin hinted at a need for stricter oversight.
On March 31, Russia’s State Duma agreed to consider not one, but three separate bills covering dual citizenship held by Russians. The new measures, if adopted, would impose various criminal penalties on some Russian citizens who fail to disclose that they share loyalty with another country. Two bills submitted by deputies from Vladimir Zhirinovksy’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia would impose punishments of up to 300,000 rubles (around $8,500) and up to three years imprisonment for citizens who fail to disclose that they have adopted dual-nationality within 30 days of becoming a citizen of another state. The bill does not appear to address how to deal with those who already hold dual citizenship.
A milder bill, proposed by a deputy from the Just Russia faction in the Duma, would cover only state employees and some employees who work for state-owned entities.
The Russian constitution explicitly permits dual citizenship, while stating that “a citizen of the Russian Federation in possession of other citizenship will be considered by the Russian Federation only as a subject of the Russian Federation, with the exception of cases subject to pre-agreed international treaties of the Russian Federation or federal law.” The only two such exceptions apply to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
In a March 27 speech in the Council of Federation, the upper chamber of Russia’s Federal Assembly, Putin endorsed tighter regulation of citizenship. “We should, and we are quite within our rights, to know who lives in Russia and what they are doing. But… the penalty should not be too grave, though of course there should be a penalty,” Putin stated, according to comments published by gazeta.ru.
No data is available for the number of Russians who share citizenship with other countries, though anecdotal evidence suggests sizable numbers of Russian nationals also hold citizenship of Finland, Israel, and others. At least one of the deputies sponsoring a dual-citizenship amendment cited “national security” as the reason for the measure.