Staunton, Dec. 30 – Provisions in Vladimir Putin’s new bill on citizenship that will allow the authorities to strip Russian citizenship from those who have been given it are a step toward the restoration of the Soviet system in which the powers could take citizenship away from anyone who had it even from birth, Vladimir Pastukhov says.
The Kremlin was forced to recognize because of the Navalny case that its repressive system would remain “incomplete” until it gained that power and could ensure that those who were forced to flee out of fear of persecution would not be able to return while the current regime is in power, the London-based Russian analyst explains (echo.msk.ru/blog/pastuhov_v/2962244-echo/).
Had Putin had that power before Navalny returned, he could have kept the opposition politician out of Russia, perhaps reducing him to a comedic figure of an émigré professor rather than have to deal with the continuing attention he gets in Russia and abroad as a prisoner of the Kremlin.
The Putin regime has exploited the openness to Russian borders to ensure that it can effectively exile people it doesn’t like. If the latter feel they are threatened with arrest or worse, they will simply go abroad in their thousands. But there is always the problem that some of them like Navalny may return. And the Kremlin is working to close that danger to itself.
“Basing itself on rich Soviet experience,” Pastukhov continues, “which for the current masters of the Kremlin is a guiding star in all things, it is easy to identify two causes” for Putin’s latest moves on citizenship, “a desire to push out of the country those who disagree with him and an unwillingness to allow them to come back.” Both matter but “to a different degree.”
Getting people to leave as long as the borders are open is easy; preventing them from coming back under those conditions is harder. Moscow could close the borders but then it would lose the ability to force people out and would infuriate Russians who see the chance to go abroad as something they value even if they don’t take advantage of it.
That makes restricting the ability of people to return ever more critical, including Russians who are Russian citizens from birth. Now, people in that category are relatively protected and hard to prevent reentering the country. But if they can be deprived of their citizenship, that problem would be largely solved, Pastukhov says.