MINELRES: Russia's minority residents face deportation

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Aug 8 12:39:41 2005

Original sender: Alexander Osipov <aossipov@tochka.ru> 

Alexander Osipov

Human Rights Centre ‘Memorial’

Moscow, Russia


Former Soviet citizens resident in Russia are kept in custody and face 


Hundreds of thousands former citizens of the USSR moved in Russia before and 
after the Soviet Union’s breakdown. They resided in Russia lawfully, but the 
2002 law on foreigners brought most of them in a position of illegal migrants, 
although most of these people permanently resided in the country for years and 
did not violate any of the previous regulations. In theory, these people must 
be fined and expelled from the country as illegally residing foreigners. In 
practice, these people are brought to judicial administrative hearings and 
consequently sentenced to deportation only in exceptional cases. However, such 
cases take place from time to time; Human Rights Centre ‘Memorial’ has recently 
recorded new three incidents of this sort. All Russia’s permanent residents 
sentenced to expulsion belong to ethnic minorities. The recent three cases of 
2005 concerned two ethnic Kurds and one Armenian.


After the Soviet Union's breakdown, the USSR Law ‘On the Legal Status of 
Foreign Citizens in the USSR’ of 1981 could not be automatically extended onto 
the former Soviet nationals who stayed in Russia but were not Russian citizens. 
It was not applied to nationals of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) 
and citizens of the former USSR becoming stateless. Then, their status remained 
unclear until adoption of the Federal Law 'On the Legal Status of Foreign 
Citizens in the Russian Federation' of July 2002 (went into force on 1 November 


The CIS nationals and former Soviet citizens (except for citizens of the Baltic 
States, since 1999 Turkmenistan and since 2001 Georgia) enjoy the right of free 
entry into the RF territory without visas or other permissions. Until 2001, the 
term of stay in Russia was not also restricted for them. The same rules of 
registration by place of residence and stay were applicable to them as to 
Russian citizens. 


The 2002 RF law on foreigners does not distinguish between the foreigners who 
already lived in the country and who were arriving in Russia anew. It also does 
not envisage any transitional regulations for ex-Soviet nationals. In practice 
only those who had residence registration on the date the law took effect or 
can prove their resident but a court decision have a chance to legalise 
themselves – either get a residence permit or obtain Russian citizenship. 
Actually most of ex-Soviet national were living with a temporary registration 
or were denied registration at all (like Meskhetian Turks in Krasnodar Krai, a 
southern region of Russia). The people who are not Russian citizens and who are 
living in the country may apply for temporary or permanent residence permit on 
equal footing with the newcomers. However, without employment permission or 
residence permit they lost the right to employment or running any business on 1 
November 2002. Without a lawful source of income and residence registration 
they have little chances in getting temporary and permanent residence permits. 
Those who did not have residence registration on 1 July 2002, are not eligible 
for the simplified procedure of naturalisation.


Consequently, a large category of the outlawed people has emerged. Hundreds of 
thousands or millions former Soviet nationals who permanently live in the 
country (there are no reliable figures so far) do not have Russian citizenship 
or are not recognised as Russian citizens in direct violation of the law or 
have lost a status of legal residents. The bulk of them have already lost links 
with their countries of origin. 


The Russian authorities deport several thousand nationals of CIS countries a 
year; most of these people are labour migrants from Central Asia. As a rule, 
the authorities avoid expulsion of permanent residents; however, several times 
people who had been residing in Russia for years and even had spouses – Russian 
citizens, were taken in custody and deported. 


Tsezar and Kahaber Kobalia are refugees from Abkhazia. They arrived in Moscow 
in 1993; several times they applied for refugee status in Russia, but failed. 
They did not obtain either Georgian or Russian citizenship; in 1995-2000, they 
had registration by the place of stay in Moscow. The both were detained in 
October 2002, sentenced to deportation to Georgia and deported, although they 
had neither Georgian citizenship nor ties with this country. 


Ramzan Zakaev, an ethnic Chechen, arrived in Russia from Kazakhstan in 1993. 
>From 1993 to 1999 he legally resided with his wife, a Russian citizen, in 
Grozny, Chechnia. In 1999, they fled Chechnia for Moscow. In January 2003, 
Ramzan Zakaev was detained and sentenced to deportation to Kazakhstan where he 
had been registered before coming to Russia in 1993. The court did not take 
into account that Zakaev’s wife was a Russian citizen and that they had three 
minor kids. Zakaev was deported.


In December 2003, the Anapa district court (Krasnodar Krai) sentenced two 
Meskhetian Turks – Lutfi and Ridvan Muradovs - to deportation from Russia. The 
decision was made in absence of these people. Meanwhile, the Muradovs like 
almost all Meskhetian Turks in Krasnodar Krai are de jure Russian nationals; 
they arrived in Russia before 1992 and permanently resided in the country since 
then.  However, there is no place to expel these people to. They left 
Uzbekistan in 1989 and have no connection with this country; their families and 
homes are in Krasnodar Krai. Fortunately, these two people were not taken in 
custody are still awaiting enforcement of the decision.


Nina Avagian, an ethnic Armenian was expelled to Armenia from Krasnodar Krai on 
21 May 2005. She is a widow, resided in the city Belorechensk (Krasnodar Krai) 
from 1982. Her two adult children, who are Russian citizens by birth, lived 
together with her. In 1995, she had her passport stolen. The local passport and 
visa service denied issuance of the new one. Being in need to have any kind of 
ID, N.Avagian applied to an Armenian consulate and in 1996 got a passport of 
Republic of Armenia. In March 2005, she was fined for the absence without 
registration, while in January she confirmed the legal fact of her permanent 
residence in Russia by a court decision. In April 2005, she was fined again and 
sentenced to deportation. She was in custody for a month and then deported.


Rasul and Murad Tem-ogly, ethnic Kurds, stateless former Soviet nationals, have 
been sentenced in the Republic of Adygea (an enclave region inside Krasnodar 
Krai) to deportation from Russia. There names are Rasul and Murad Tem-oglu. The 
both originate from Azerbaijan and legally arrived in Russia in 1994. 
Afterwards they resided first in Krasnodar Krai, and from 2001 then in Adygea. 
Rasul Tem-ogly got a passport of a USSR national in 1994 in Krasnodar Krai and 
so did Murad in 2000. Periodically they got registration by a place of stay and 
in 2004 applied for temporary residence permits. All their relatives, including 
parents, reside in Russia; Rasul's wife and kids are Russian citizens. As in 
the previous case, In May 2005, they were detained during a massive house-to-
house police check. On 3 June, the court of Giaginski district (Adygea) ruled 
that they shall be expatriated and retained in custody before the deportation. 
The court of cassation (17 June) and the supervisory jurisdiction (27 July) 
upheld the court ruling of the first instance. The courts did not take into 
consideration that the both arrived in Russia legally, several times applied 
for residence registration, but were denied it. They are kept in the Adygean 
deportation centre and can stay there for years, because the Russian law does 
not limit the terms of pre-deportation custody. Besides, they are stateless, 
they have passports issued in Russia, and it is not obvious that Azerbaijan 
will allow forced transportation of these people onto its territory. The only 
hope for the Tem-oglys is a complaint to the next supervisory jurisdiction – 
the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.



Alexander Osipov
Human Rights Centre 'Memorial'
programme co-ordinator
12 Maly Karetny pereulok
103051 Moscow RUSSIA
tel. +7 095 370 70 83 pr.
fax +7 095 209 57 79

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