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3 Nov, 2020 18:27

In major rule change, Russian intelligence officers to be allowed to take foreign citizenship & residency as part of missions

In major rule change, Russian intelligence officers to be allowed to take foreign citizenship & residency as part of missions

Russia’s State Duma has moved to roll back rules that prevented many of the country's intelligence and security officers from holding residence permits, and even the citizenship, of other countries as part of their service.

Until now, employees of these agencies, like military personnel, federal civil servants, and other senior officials, had been banned from possessing these documents, and being a foreign resident or citizen constituted official grounds for dismissal.

However, a new bill introduced earlier this year by President Vladimir Putin would allow agents of the FSB and SVR, Russia’s domestic and overseas intelligence services, to accept the right to live and work overseas if required “by the tasks of operational and intelligence activities.” The exemption would mean that active agents would be formally permitted to become citizens and permanent residents overseas.

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Russia’s rules around ties to foreign countries have historically been among the most restrictive for diplomats and intelligence agencies anywhere in the world. It has been reported that employees have been prohibited even from forming romantic relationships with foreigners.

For ordinary Russians, since 2014, there has been a requirement to notify the Migration Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of all dual citizenships and foreign residence permits.

The news is likely to cause alarm in the West, where suspicions of large-scale Russian spying operations have been widely reported on. In 2018, the UK press alleged that there could be “as many as 75,000 Russian spies in Britain,” accounting for half of the expat population there. The claims drew ridicule online.

The Kremlin has not responded to requests for comment on the reasoning behind the rule change.

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