Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Moscow Providing Costly Social Benefits to People in Unrecognized Territories if They Take Russian Citizenship

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 14 – Moscow’s program of giving passports to people living in the unrecognized statelets of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transdniestria, the DNR and LNR, has long attracted attention abroad; but what hasn’t is how large the burden Russian taxpayers have assumed to make this happen, Olga Gulina says.

            The director of the Moscow Institute on Migration Policy is promoting the adoption of Russian citizenship by the residents of these places by offering them maternal capital, unemployment compensation and pension benefits available to Russian citizens but not requiring them to give up other citizenships, either of the statelets themselves or of the countries out of which the statelets have been formed (ridl.io/ru/pasportnaja-jekspansija/).

            On the one hand, this creates problems in Moscow’s relations with the countries out of which such statelets have been carved; but on the other, it raises questions among Russians who are now being forced to finance this program even though the evidence suggests those gaining Russian passports rarely pay taxes to Russia.

            It is clear, Gulina continues, that many who are taking Russian passports are doing so not so much for political reasons as to get these benefits, especially as the economic situation in many of the statelets is anything but positive. And they can claim these benefits without having to show the work record or other information that ordinary Russian citizens must.

            Not surprisingly, the Russian government isn’t anxious to advertise the costs it has placed on the shoulders of Russian taxpayers. But last year, in addition to its subsidies to South Ossetia and Abkhazia alone, the Russian government transferred 11.5 billion rubles (190 million US dollars) to those who have taken Russian citizenship for pensions.

            But this is a price that the Kremlin is willing to pay because these Russian citizens have the right to vote in presidential elections; and they vote in far greater percentages for Vladimir Putin than do Russian citizens in Russia itself, Gulina points out.

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