Russians Getting Kyrgyz Passports As Way Out Amid Ongoing Ukraine War

Russians are showing a growing interest in obtaining Kyrgyz passports as a way out of their country — which has been isolated in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine early last year.

Private Russian firms promote the Kyrgyz passport as a door opener to subsequently being able to travel, study, and live in Western countries.

Hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled their country since the invasion, fearing the economic fallout of the war and the risk of being enlisted to serve in the armed forces.

Those from affluent backgrounds have purchased homes and created businesses in countries like the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, and Israel, paving their way for long-term residency in such places.

Many mostly middle-class Russians left for neighboring countries like Armenia, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The Russian company Open The World offers services to get Kyrgyz citizenship for Russian clients for the relatively affordable price of $1,500 in up to 18 months.

It’s not known how many Russians have applied for Kyrgyz passports through such private firms or other channels.

But official figures from Bishkek indicate that the number of Russian citizens seeking a Kyrgyz passport has risen fourfold since the conflict began in February 2022.

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

Hundreds of thousands of Russians fled their country after it invaded Ukraine.

The agency said a total of 226 and 603 Russian nationals received Kyrgyz citizenship in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

A list of people who were granted Kyrgyz citizenship on October 26 last year shows there were ethnic Kyrgyz and Russians among those getting a passport.

The list includes many people with Russian names and surnames who were born in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Chelyabinsk, and other Russian cities.

Some of them were even identified as Russian officials and entrepreneurs or their family members.

Citing multiple sources, The Moscow Times reported that the personal details of some of the new passport holders — their names, surnames, and the date and places of their births — are identical to some Russian officials and businessmen and their relatives.

For example, one of them is Natalia Mikhailovna Barshchevskaya, who was born in Moscow in 1977. Such details are identical to those of the eldest daughter of Mikhail Barshchevsky, a lawyer and leading Russian government official.

Another name on the list is Dmitry Zelenin, born in Moscow in 1962, just as the former governor of Russia’s Tver Province was. The first name, surname, birthdate, and place of birth also match.

Likewise, the Bishkek-born brothers Aleksandr Valeryevich Zadorin, 35, and Mikhail Valeryevich Zadorin, 45 — who received Kyrgyz citizenship last year — have the exact same personal data as the sons of Russian businessman Valery Zadorin. Both he and his sons were born in Bishkek but later moved to Russia.

Tables Turned

Some 30,000 Russians reportedly arrived in Kyrgyzstan in 2022 in the largest migration of Russians to the country in decades. Members of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, Moscow and Bishkek share close political and economic ties.

Russia hosts hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz migrant workers whose remittances provide a key source of income to many households in the impoverished Central Asian nation.

Kyrgyzstan and Russia don’t have a dual-citizenship pact. But laws in both countries allow their citizens to hold multiple nationalities.

Kyrgyzstan’s neighbor, Tajikistan, signed a dual-citizenship agreement with Russia in the 1990s. Thousands of Tajiks have obtained Russian passports in recent years after Moscow simplified its citizenship law for people from fellow former Soviet countries in order to tackle Russia’s demographic crisis.

It’s not known if Russians have also been obtaining Tajik passports since the start of the Ukraine war.

But according to the Sattorov family in Orenburg Province, some 1,500 kilometers southeast of Moscow, many dual Tajik-Russian citizens such as them have begun to appreciate their “once almost worthless Tajik passports.”

The family were among the first Tajik migrant workers to come to Russia in the 1990s but were not able to get Russian passports until 2016.

“We always cherished our Russian passports because it made it easy for us to work and live in Russia, to get state benefits, [and] to travel abroad,” Ahtam Sattorov, the head of the family of five told RFE/RL. “But everything changed after the [Ukraine war] began.”

In January, the family renewed their 16-year-old son’s expired Tajik passport. The teenager will reach the conscript age in two years, at 18.

Like many people in Russia, Sattorov initially believed the “special military operation” — as Moscow calls its brutal invasion of Ukraine — would only last a few months and conclude with a Russian victory.

“Now I am not sure when it will finish. I want my son to have the option to leave Russia for good if necessary,” he said.

In their early days in Russia, the Sattorovs made friends with a local businessman who hired them to work in his dacha and helped them to eventually “stand on their own two feet.” The Sattorovs are still close to him.

“Our friend recently said he is contemplating getting a Tajik or other Central Asian passport,” Sattorov said. “It sounded surreal — a Russian employer asking us about seeking Tajik citizenship. It was the other way around before.

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Artificial intelligence has reinterpreted this news for you.

Private firms in Kyrgyzstan are promoting its passports to Russians as a way to escape Russia’s isolation post the 2014 Ukraine war. Russians are also looking for long-term residency in countries like the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, and Israel, with wealthy people buying homes and creating businesses there. The Kyrgyz Population Registration Department has announced that the number of Russian citizens applying for Kyrgyz passports has risen fourfold since the conflict began in February 2022. While this news is increasing in Kyrgyzstan, the Sattorov family in Orenburg Province, has highlighted that Russia’s Ukraine war has made many dual Tajik-Russian citizens begin to value their „once almost worthless Tajik passports.“ Ahtam Sattorov said he initially felt the war would only last a few months, but he is now „not sure when it will finish“ and wants his son to have the option of leaving Russia for good if necessary.

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