Lawmakers suggest making Russian citizenship easier for Ukrainians

A family of refugees from southeastern Ukraine seen near the Federal Migration Service's office in Belgorod which is going to provide them with temporary residence permits and refugee statuses (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Kornev)
A group of Russian MPs say there are often deliberate obstructions for Ukrainians who want to change their citizenship to Russian, and suggest getting round this problem by cutting the number of required documents.

The advocates of the motion are from the center-left Fair Russia party and its leader Sergey Mironov is among the sponsors of the bill.

Thousands of Ukrainians are given various excuses and then after document problems they are refused Russian citizenship. Ukrainian authorities treat their citizens who choose to move to Russia like second-class citizens. Our bill would alleviate the situation and would simply ask Ukrainians to renounce their initial citizenship,” MP Oleg Nilov said in an interview with Izvestia daily.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have moved to Russia since the beginning of the armed conflict in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, fleeing from war, destruction and military conscription. Their numbers are difficult to estimate, because Russia and Ukraine have a visa-free regime. However, last autumn Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the figure was approaching one million.

Russian officials have taken numerous steps aimed at easing the plight of Ukrainian refugees. In August 2014, the Federal Migration Service allowed Ukrainians to prolong their 90-day visa free stay for 180 days, adding that they wouldn’t be punished for minor violations of migration rules. It also proposed a public discussion on a bill giving regional migration officials authority to grant temporary asylum to Ukrainians within three days instead of the current three months. The bill would also cancel the obligatory health test and stop the deportation and extradition of Ukrainians unless ordered otherwise by the Russian government.

READ MORE: No plans for visa regime with Ukraine – Russia’s immigration chief

At the same time, nationalist politicians have said the influx of refugees could harm Russia and suggested some additional regulating steps. In particular, MP Roman Khudyakov of the LDPR party drafted a bill proposing cutting benefit payments to refugees if they refuse to take jobs offered by Russian employment centers.

In June 2014, the head of the presidential administration, Sergey Ivanov visited a refugee camp in the Rostov Region and proposed giving Russian citizenship to people born on Russian soil. The current law only grants citizenship to children of Russian parents. However, this bill hasn’t been prepared yet.