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Private Firms Obtain Kyrgyz Citizenship For Russians Desperate To Escape Homeland

By Farangis Najibullah, Toktosun Shambetov May 30, 2023

As Moscow's brutal war in Ukraine drags on, ordinary Russians continue to leave their homeland to escape worsening economic conditions and evade military service.

With demand high among Russians for foreign visas and passports, a growing number of private Russian-based companies are offering services to obtain Kyrgyz citizenship for their Russian clients.

The companies, which describe themselves as law firms, have promoted Kyrgyzstan as a friendly, Russian-speaking country. They advertise that Kyrgyz citizenship can open the door to travel, study, and residency in Western countries.

Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished former Soviet nation, has maintained good relations with Moscow despite the war in Ukraine.

The private Russian companies charge between $1,500 and $14,000 for their services. Prices depend on whether clients want a consultation or a so-called all-inclusive service that involves preparing the paperwork, arranging a trip to Kyrgyzstan, and making appointments with passport officials there.

The process to obtain Kyrgyz citizenship can take between three to 18 months, with the Russian companies charging extra for expedited processing.

Official Kyrgyz figures show that the number of Russian citizens who acquired Kyrgyz passports increased fourfold last year. The government in Bishkek has insisted that every application for citizenship is carefully examined to prevent corruption.

An employee of one of the Russian firms that offer assistance to obtain Kyrgyz citizenship told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that, on average, they charge around $12,000 per application.

Kyrgyzstan does not officially recognize dual citizenship with Russia. But the employee of the Russian firm said the company exploits legal loopholes to get Kyrgyz nationality for its Russian clients.

"Citizens of former Soviet countries -- those who were born before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 -- can legally get Kyrgyz citizenship through simplified procedures," said the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"You will not lose your Russian citizenship because of this," the employee said. "We offer guarantees in our service. We have contacts at the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry and passport offices."

Clients are required to travel in person to the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, where they are accompanied by the firm's representatives to the passport office and other administrative buildings, the employee explained.

Tightening Visa Rules For Russians

Western countries tightened visa rules for Russian citizens following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, making it much harder and costlier for Russians to travel abroad for holidays, business, and education.

The exodus of Russians after the invasion also prompted countries like Turkey -- which has not joined Western sanctions against Moscow -- to toughen immigration rules.

Since December, Turkey -- a top destination for Russian emigres and tourists -- has made it harder for Russians to obtain short-term residency permits, several Russian nationals told RFE/RL.

Some banks in Turkey have also suspended the use of the Russian payment system Mir, which is popular with many Russians living in Turkey.

According to Turkey's Migration Agency, some 153,000 Russian citizens obtained temporary residency in Turkey last year.

The tougher immigration rules in Turkey have made Kyrgyz citizenship attractive to a growing number of Russians.

"Now Kyrgyzstan is a convenient country to obtain citizenship in a short period of time," said the employee of the Russian firm offering Kyrgyz passports.

"Besides, it's a nice, Russian-speaking country, and it's not under any kind of sanctions. With a Kyrgyz passport you can travel to Europe, the United States, and other countries, whereas it's become very difficult to go abroad with a Russian passport," the employee said.

Prices for the company's services have been rising amid increased demand, the employee said.

The Kyrgyz Population Registration Department said 1,631 Russian citizens applied for Kyrgyz passports between January and the end of September 2022. That is an increase of more than a 400 percent from the same period in 2021, when 385 Russian nationals applied for Kyrgyz citizenship.

Among those who received Kyrgyz passports last year were Russian officials and businessmen and their family members, according to reports. It is unknown if they had applied for Kyrgyz nationality through private firms or other channels.

Kyrgyzstan's Digital Development Ministry, which oversees population registration and citizenship acquisition issues, said earlier this month that the authorities "thoroughly" examine each application for Kyrgyz citizenship.

The ministry urged people not to trust "dubious" advertisements on the Internet which offer Kyrgyz passports.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/private-firms- kyrgyz-citizenship-russians-escape-/32435363.html

Copyright (c) 2023. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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