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Abolition of dual citizenship widely condemned

A new Turkmen constitutional clause that prohibits dual citizenship has been widely condemned by Russian community leaders and rights groups. The clause, announced on Wednesday, effectively enshrines in the constitution a semi-official policy that has prompted thousands of Russians to leave the former Soviet republic and sparked a dispute with Moscow. Anatoliy Fuming, the head of the Russian community of Turkmenistan, told IRIN from Moscow that the move was illegal. "They don't have the right to do it," he said, adding that dual citizenship could only be abolished by Russian President Vladimir Putin. "We conduct the policy that nobody [of the Russian minority] gives it up under any circumstances, [because] depriving them of Russian citizenship means to make them slaves in the country," Fomin claimed. The new clause, published in the state-run newspaper Neutralnii Turkmenistan, says that no other citizenship held by a citizen of Turkmenistan will be recognised by Ashgabat. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in April to do away with their 1993 dual-citizenship treaty. But Niyazov shocked Russian officials by giving residents with passports identifying them as citizens of both countries just two months before a 22 June deadline to decide which one they would keep. "It [ending dual citizenship] is a continuation of the policy, which was openly announced by the decree of Niyazov in April of this year," Vitaliy Ponomarev, head of the Central Asia Programme for the Russian Memorial human rights centre, a group closely following events in Turkmenistan, told IRIN from Moscow. He added that the main goal of the decision was to further isolate the country from the world. Other observers put the decision down to Niyazov's fear of the Turkmen opposition in exile in Russia and his desire to sever links between it and Russians living in Turkmenistan. The situation has sparked claims in Russia that Putin sold out citizens for energy, because he also signed a 25-year natural gas deal with Turkmenistan at the April meeting with Niyazov. Around 100,000 Russian citizens live in Turkmenistan. The elimination of dual citizenship coupled with the reintroduction of Soviet-style exit visas, part of a crackdown after an alleged November assassination attempt against the authoritarian Niyazov, has prompted many Russians to decide to leave the country.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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