The Russian Foreign Ministry hosted on December 5 consultations with the representatives of the Russian-backed Sokhumi authorities regarding two projected agreements that are supposed to regulate “the dual citizenship issues” and “the simplified procedure for the acquisition of the Russian citizenship” by the residents of Abkhazia.
Dmitry Shamba, head of Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba’s administration, who attended the talks last week, held a press conference regarding the consultations on December 11. Shamba said these were the first actual consultations about the draft agreement on dual citizenship, even though it had been officially discussed since 2009. According to him, representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service (FSB) participated from the Russian side.
Shamba also noted that the purpose of the projected agreement was to “regulate the status of the individuals who presently have dual citizenship,” since according to the Russian law it is impossible to get the Russian citizenship without giving up one’s previous citizenship, unless regulated otherwise by an international agreement. As a result, said Shamba, “since 2008, from the moment of recognition of Abkhazia by the Russian Federation, the process of the Abkhaz citizens receiving the Russian citizenship had been halted until the signing of a relevant agreement.”
Shamba also stressed that the projected agreement would not regulate how the Russian Federation citizens could acquire the “Abkhaz citizenship,” because “the very first article of the draft agreement contains the statement that issues concerning how citizenship is acquired will be regulated by national laws,” adding that the agreement “does not envision any changes in the laws of the republic of Abkhazia.”
Khajimba’s representative also spoke about another projected agreement discussed during the consultations, that would be based on the “alliance and strategic partnership” deal signed between Sokhumi and Moscow on November 24, 2014, in which Russia committed to “undertake additional measures” to ease procedures required for obtaining Russian citizenship for the “citizens of Abkhazia.”
In Shamba’s words, the second agreement was needed because the one about dual citizenship “would remove only one restriction” – the obligation to renounce “the Abkhaz citizenship” when receiving the Russian one. Therefore, said Shamba, it had been agreed “with the Russian colleagues” that besides the dual citizenship deal an “agreement on the simplified procedure for the acquisition of the Russian citizenship by the citizens of the republic of Abkhazia” would also be prepared and signed.
The two agreements, he explained, would be processed as a “package,” so that they could be “signed, presented for ratification, and come into force at the same time,” all within the next six months.
The agreement on dual citizenship was envisioned in the 2008 treaty on “the friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance signed between Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev and the Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh on September 17, 2008. According to the document, citizens of one contracting party can obtain the citizenship of another contracting party “on terms and in the manner established by the legislation of the contracting party whose citizenship is obtained.”
The agreement was discussed during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s April visit to Abkhazia, where the matter “was a top agenda item” in Lavrov’s conversations with Raul Khajimba, according to the region’s Moscow-backed authorities.