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30 Jul, 2020 17:48

Russian authorities to investigate as Communist MP claims 39 ruling party politicians have dual citizenship or foreign residency

Russian authorities to investigate as Communist MP claims 39 ruling party politicians have dual citizenship or foreign residency

The speaker of Russia’s State Duma (parliament) has ordered the Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption to determine which lawmakers have alternative citizenships or other residence permits, after a claim by an opposition MP.

A key part of Vladimir Putin's constitutional changes, approved in a national vote earlier this month, called for a halt to top officials having foreign passports or the right to reside in other countries. The clause was popular with the public, given the number of times over the past three decades that corrupt former politicians or bureaucrats have fled abroad after milking Russia.

Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin ordered the investigation following a claim by Denis Parfenov, a deputy from the parliamentary opposition Communist Party, who alleged that 39 politicians from the ruling United Russia party have foreign passports or residency, which the speaker called a “serious accusation.” 

In his list, Parfenov named prominent senators Andrey Klishas and Elena Mizulina, as well as Governor of the Moscow Region Andrey Vorobyov, among others. He did not provide any evidence for his claims. 

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Some of the revelations regarding foreign citizenship and residencies are not new. For example, popular Telegram channel ‘Nebozhena’ has previously claimed that Mizulina holds a Belgian residence permit. This raised eyebrows given that not only is Belgium a NATO member-state, but it is also home to the organization’s headquarters. Mizulina confirmed to the Moscow newspaper RBK that she had reported the accusation to Russia’s prosecutor general. Questions have also previously been asked of Vorobyov, who in January denied that he had residence permits in both Spain and Israel. 

According to Russian law, it was already forbidden for members of Russia’s Federation Council or State Duma to have the citizenship of a foreign state, or a permit confirming the right of permanent residence in another country. But the constitutional amendments broadening the list of people under the prohibition have led to a renewed focus on the issue. 

If politicians are found to have second citizenships, Volodin promised that he would take the measures required by Russian law. If not, then questions will be asked of “those who disseminate false information,” he said.

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The head of the country’s Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, explained on Thursday afternoon that none of the current parliamentary MPs had foreign passports at the time of the previous election in 2016, and it is not within the “powers” or “competence” of the body to check already elected officials.

Three of the accused politicians – Deputies Irina Rodnina, Otari Arshba, and Alexander Zhukov – were quick to note that they were not scared of being investigated and had nothing to hide. 

Parfenov did not name his sources.

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