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18 Nov, 2009 10:31

EU to the rescue to expose dual citizens in Russia

EU to the rescue to expose dual citizens in Russia

Administrators at Russia’s border Pechory area have launched a crackdown on officials who illegally hold Estonian passports in secret. Estonia has granted its citizenship to many of locals due to historical background.

The Pechory area of the Pskov region borders Estonia, Latvia and Belarus. While originally part of Russian Pskov region, the area was captured by Estonia during its war for independence following the Bolshevik revolution. The Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920 left it in Estonian sovereignty for the whole inter-war period, but after the country became part of the Soviet Union during Word War II, Pechory was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Russian Federal Republic.

After Estonia became an independent state again in 1990s, the new authorities declared that descendants of all citizens of the independent Estonia were eligible for Estonian citizenship – notwithstanding nationality. Pechory residents were among them, and since having an Estonian passport means free cross-border travel, many people applied.

An estimated 10,000 of the 23,000 predominantly-Russian locals now have dual citizenship, a situation which makes hot heads in Russia ring alarm over territorial integrity. Their nationalistic counterparts in Estonia eagerly fueled these fears by demanding sovereignty over Pechory on historical grounds.

While Russian law does not forbid dual citizenship, holders of foreign passports are restricted in their right to hold public offices and to take jobs which open access to state secrets. However, for the Pechory administration, making sure that officials are not citizens of Estonia is problematic, since the Estonian side is unwilling to check their records to expose violators. They say such information is confidential.

Now the head of the local administration has found a way to check his subordinates and find out if any of them have Estonian passports, reports Russian TV Channel One. He requested that everyone apply for a Schengen visa. Estonian citizens don’t need one to travel to the EU, so they are not issued one.

Meanwhile, on the ground, the initiative was taken with weary indifference. Dual citizens, who profit on cross-border trade or have a job in Estonia, say they would be happy to know that the authorities don’t put restrictions on their lives.