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By denying visa-free entry to Baltic non-citizens, Russia is narrowing the Russian world

The denial of visa-free entry to some Baltic non-citizens is an example of Russia’s attitude towards Russians living abroad, a group of experts told EADaily on Sept 1. They believe that Russia should take more consistent measures with respect to all Russian compatriots abroad rather than just granting non-visa entry to Russians living in Estonia and Latvia. One of the solutions might be to adopt a document confirming a person’s Russian identity and granting him or her a wide range of rights in the territory of Russia, including visa-free entry.

The debates on the rights of Russians living abroad were restarted when Moscow university student, non-citizen of Latvia Oksana Karaja was deported from Russia because of having no visa. The problem here is that in 2008 the Russian president decreed that all non-citizens of Latvia and Estonia who once were Soviet citizens and their minor children had the right to enter Russia without a visa, but on Aug 10 2016 the Russian authorities adopted new instructions, saying that non-citizen children of majority age having no Soviet passport should have a visa so as to be able to enter Russia.

Director of the Problems issued by Globalization Institute (IPROG) Mikhail Delyagin is sure that it was a counterproductive and harmful decision, which is artificially narrowing the Russian world and is pushing off Russia-oriented young Balts. “Latvian and Estonian non-citizens are Russians. This is exactly why they are non-citizens. By denying visa-free entry to those people, Russia is depriving them of support and is artificially narrowing the Russian world. This is a typical liberal sabotage,” Delyagin says.

He is sure that Russia must restore visa-free regime for all Baltic non-citizens. And if the Baltics begin receiving refugees from the Middle East, it will have to introduce a Russian language exam for those wishing to enter Russia for free. “This is a good solution – to introduce a card of the Russian in analogy with the Card of the Pole. Any foreigner who likes Russia and studies its culture and history – even if he is not a Russian - will be able to get such a card and to enter Russia for free,” Delyagin says.

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Political analyst Pavel Svyatenkov is also very critical of the ban. He is sure that Russia must lift it as most of the Latvian and Estonian non-citizens are Russians. “We should even consider a law giving such people priority for Russian citizenship,” Svyatenkov says.

“Unless the Russian authorities lift this ban, all of their promises to protect their compatriots will be just dust,” the expert says.

President of the Institute of National Strategy Mikhail Remizov says that this is one more example of Russia’s inappropriate attitude towards Russians living abroad.

“In the CIS their rights are also violated. But Russia has done very little to protect them at least in its territory. The other divided nations are very active in supporting their compatriots. The Poles have the Card of the Pole. Hungary also has such a card. Kazakhstan, Israel, Germany and many other nations offer easy naturalization procedures to their ethnic repatriates. Russia has nothing like this, except for a program of repatriation, which was not very comprehensive and not very comfortable for its beneficiaries,” Remizov says.

“Even after the Donbass war, we took just emergency measures to help our compatriots but we did nothing to give them longer-term guarantees in Russia, for example, employment preferences over gastarbeiters from Central Asia. So, disregard for the divided status of the Russian nation has become one of the key elements of our policy on the whole post-Soviet area. And nothing seems to be changing here,” the expert says.

He says that non-visa regime is not enough. “Here we need something like the Card of the Pole. We need a card of the Russian for all Russians living abroad. It would give them a wide range of rights in the territory of Russia, including free entry, free employment, free education and so on. In fact, it would give them all rights, except the right to vote. We need a comprehensive policy here,” Remizov says.

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