UKRAINE LEGAL UPDATE
16 September 2022
Ukraine considers introducing criminal liability for Russian citizenship. A bill to be laid before the legislature proposes making it a crime for some to get Russian passports and also for promoting the practice.
According to press reports, the bill would add to the Criminal Code some new offenses involving acquisition of Russian passports, such as:
acquiring Russian citizenship by Ukraine’s officials,
coercing a Ukrainian national to acquire a Russian passport,
creating conditions where not having a Russian passport would disadvantage one,
propaganda of Russian citizenship.
The proposed penalties range from five to 15 years of prison. One possible defense is where a passport was needed to return to Ukraine.
While the first of the proposed crimes is meant to deter Ukrainains from taking Russian citizenship, the others apparently target those, including foreigners, who work to promote it, including in the captured territories. There seems for now to be no intention to criminalize holding Russian citizenship as such.
Double citizenship has long been a matter of debate in Ukraine. Some argue it is prohibited, citing the constitutional provision that “Ukraine has single citizenship”. Others say all this means is that Ukraine cannot operate several citizenship regimes (such as for its separate parts). The official line seems closer to the former view. There have been cases of people stripped of Ukrainian passports for holding foreign ones.
It is not clear what would happen to those already with Russian passports if the bill is passed. The Constitution precludes retroactive criminal liability. In any event, holders of many governmental offices are already forbidden by law from holding foregin passports and must disclose the fact.
A Supreme Court judge has recently been implicated in a row involving his alleged Russian passport.
Earlier this year Ukraine adopted sweeping anti-collaboration laws penalizing those cooperating with Russia.