Crimea residents, who are being issued Russian passports to declare they are now Russian citizens, are not necessarily doing so willingly and questions are being raised regarding the motives of the Russian government. President Vladimir Putin made Russia’s taking of Crimea official on Friday. As a result, new passports and citizenship declarations are required from the populace.
Residents of Crimea who decided to give up their Ukrainian citizenship and get a Russian passport, received passports or temporary documents that state they live in Magadana, which is a city in the Kolyma region, far east of Russia. However, if Crimean residents do not agree to renounce their citizenship and ask for their Ukrainian passports back, they have been told their previous passport has been destroyed or no longer exists.
The new passport forms come with a list of required documentation–birth certificate, the old Ukrainian passport, a new photo, and 200 Russian rubles, which is equivalent to four euros or $5 U.S. Russian rubles are now Crimea’s new second currency. The displaced residents have been given a month to declare whether they want to remain Ukrainian. Otherwise, they will automatically become Russian citizens. Either way, the residents will still have to obtain passports. Some residents are opting to hold onto their old Ukrainian passport, as well as procuring a new Russian passport. However, this is a temporary measure given that Ukrainian law does not allow for individuals to have two passports, so once the transition is complete and the deadlines pass the dual passport will no longer be recognized. The fate of those residents who want to remain in Crimea without changing nationality remains unclear.
The new Russian passports that are being issued to Crimean residents and raising questions are the direct result of the dramatic turnover that has occurred in the wake of the ousting of pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev and Russia’s capture of Crimea within the last month. The purpose of these passports and the declaration of citizenship stems from statements made by President Putin and his desire to resolve demographic and social crises in Russia, especially in far east regions. Additionally, Putin has stated people should work and live where they “should,” not where they wish to reside and work, which has raised questions about his motives and possible game plan in Crimea, as well as Russia as a whole. Moreover, thousands of displaced employees whom work in the state sector are faced with a stark dilemma–either become Russian citizens or lose their jobs.
In response to the Russian government’s new passport policy, the Ukrainian government has started a new visa regime policy for Russians wanting to visit Ukraine. In turn, Russia said it would study Ukraine’s new protocols before deciding whether to introduce a visa regime for Ukrainians.
In addition to questions being raised over the issuance of new Crimean passports, the annexation of Crimea has been condemned and widely viewed as illegal by Western states, who have levied sanctions against Moscow over the move. The residents of Crimea remain somewhat divided over the new protocols being imposed in the wake of the Russian occupation and subsequent envelopment of the country. While residents of Crimea voted in overwhelming support of the move, it is inundated with unforeseen repercussions and raise questions regarding political agendas.
By Leigh Haugh