Interior minister: Russia trying to mobilize pro-Russian minority

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the acceptance of citizenship under favorable conditions offered by Russia broadens the options to expel people from Estonia.
the acceptance of citizenship under favorable conditions offered by Russia broadens the options to expel people from Estonia. Photo: JANIS LAIZANS / REUTERS / SCANPIX

Estonian Minister of the Interior Lauri Laanemets says that the acceptance of citizenship under favorable conditions offered by Russia broadens the options to expel people from Estonia and represents Russia's attempt to mobilize the pro-Russian minority in its neighboring countries.

At the end of last week, Russia enacted a federal law aimed at granting Russian citizenship under favorable conditions to individuals abroad, spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior said on Thursday. Laanemets believes that this is Russia's attempt to mobilize the pro-Russian minority in neighboring countries by offering, among other things, Russian citizenship to currently stateless former citizens of the Soviet Union.

The federal law enacted in Russia on Oct. 26 defines over 20 categories that allow individuals who have not lived in Russia or do not speak Russian or know its history to acquire Russian Federation citizenship.

Laanemets says this is yet another Russian influence operation aimed at mobilizing the pro-Russian minority in its neighboring countries.

«Russia's goal is to encourage greater loyalty among the pro-Russian residents of its neighboring countries, legally binding them to the Russian Federation through citizenship. On one hand, in a situation where Estonia has declared Russia a terrorist state, taking Russian citizenship is a clear signal of an anti-Estonian sentiment. On the other hand, people considering this should understand that besides expressing their allegiance, acquiring Russian citizenship also involves very clear and legally binding consequences,» he added.

With the acquisition of Russian Federation citizenship, current individuals with undefined citizenship will have a country of citizenship, which expands the Estonian state's possibilities to expel individuals from the country in case of problems.

«Similarly, upon acquiring Russian Federation citizenship, an individual is obliged, for example, to go fight for Russia in Ukraine in the event of mobilization. Fighting on the side of the Russian occupation forces in Ukraine is known to be a criminal offense in Estonia, something to bear in mind upon returning here,» Laanemets emphasized.

The interior minister opined that the citizenship campaign would not prove too successful among Estonian residents because Russia's extensive aggression against Ukraine in 2022 actually significantly increased the interest of Russian citizens living in Estonia in obtaining Estonian citizenship.

«If in 2021, 291 citizens of the Russian Federation applied for Estonian citizenship, in 2022 this number more than doubled to 726 individuals. Rather, the problem has been that Russia does not let people renounce their citizenship, which complicates many from obtaining Estonian citizenship,» he said.

The Russian Federation allows the citizenship under favorable conditions within next year, for example, to individuals whose parents have renounced Russian Federation citizenship or to residents of former Soviet Union states who still lack citizenship of their country of residence. Also, a parent who is a citizen of the Russian Federation can apply for Russian Federation citizenship for their child without the consent of the other parent.

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