Archive for August 24th, 2017

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A new border regime for Russians?

August 24, 2017

For a long time battle has waged within the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine regarding how to enhance its border regime with regard to Russian citizens entering Ukraine.

Quite simply the current system is deemed to be too lapse when it comes to the standard of required documentation.  Specifically old style, easily forged or fraudulently altered passports, combined with no official requirement to ascertain the reason, location, and duration of stay for Russian citizens entering Ukraine is deemed by most as insufficient when at war with Russia.

The discourse within the NSDC has been split between the hardliners (such as NSDC Chairman Olexander Turchynov) who demanded the introduction of a Visa regime for Russian citizens, and those of a more nuanced and thoughtful position (such as Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin) who sought to tighten borders without going as far as introducing a Visa regime for Russia.

The introduction of a Visa regime would have theoretically presented Ukraine with the opportunity to vet applicants for all manner of nefarious and national security issues – regardless of whether the Russian citizen held a biometric or old style passport, before issuing an entry Visa.  However that would also have required those granting Visas in various embassies and consulates to have access to sensitive SBU information, perhaps beyond any security clearance they may hold.

Notwithstanding that, the probability of leaks from one of many diplomatic outposts relating to such lists of underisrables to the FSB, GRU and SVR would be fairly high.  A leaked list to the Russian secret services could then identify those under their command that were on the list – or not.

The thing about lists is that they inform those who have them of what is known, and what is not, in equal measure.

Further, when rightly insisting upon the non-recognition of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the coercive regime therein, there is also the internal politically sensitive issue that in introducing a Visa regime with Russia, those Ukrainian citizens in Crimea with little choice to take Russian documentation may well be forced to get a Visa to enter Ukraine – a country that still considers them their own.

Indeed the US directs all Crimean applicants for a US Visa to the US Embassy Kyiv – perhaps fortunately for those applicants considering that the US has significantly reduced its functioning Visa facilities within the Russian Federation due to the personnel cuts demanded by The Kremlin.

So politically sensitive is the Crimean issue that it appears that the hardliners have finally lost the battle within the NSDC regarding the creation and implementation of Visa regime with Russia.

Nevertheless a new and stricter entry regime for Russian citizens is required in an attempt to curtail those of nefarious and/or dubious nature deemed to present a national security threat.

The solution, which may very well be implemented very soon, is that only Russian citizens with biometric passports will be allowed entry into Ukraine – for these are far more difficult to fraudulently alter – even if not particularly difficult for the Russian security services to produce biometric passports for entirely false identities.

Further, it appears that those wishing to enter Ukraine will be required to complete an e-questionnaire that will be hosted by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry website, providing personal details, profession and place of work, the exact nature of the visit and places to be visited in Ukraine, one month in advance of the visit – presumably to provide time for relevant security checks by the SBU.  (It appears there will be a caveat relating to critical illness and death of family members regarding the required advance warning.)

The e-questionnaire is to be completed in Ukrainian or English only.

Should this come to pass (in the very near future) it remains to be seen whether the Russian response will be symmetrical or asymmetrical.  Some form of reciprocity there will surely be.

So be it.  Many will state that such a move is long overdue.

There then remains the issue of Russians already in Ukraine having entered on old documentation – and of course those that are of the FSB, GRU and (particularly) SVR ilk also already within the country, and sometimes long established.

Lastly there are those Russians in Ukraine that have made a deliberate choice to step outside of the clutches of The Kremlin apparatus, have become vocal and visible critics of it, and whose documents have since expired but (reasonably or otherwise) fear entering a Russian embassy or consulate to obtain new ones, but are not famous enough to garner swift and sympathetic action from the Ukrainian authorities relating to asylum/temporary/permanent leave to remain.

Clearly all issues to be systematically addressed.

Lastly, it should also be noted that if the debate within the NSDC is now settled as it is rumoured to be, and this new entry regime for Russian citizens is to be introduced in the very near future (ie within days as is also rumoured) then it will not come via the Verkhovna Rada – which remains on holiday.  It will have to come via Cabinet or Presidential Decree, or NSDC Resolution.

Something to look out for over the next week though, if rumour be any guide.

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