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The 10 July deadline

National passports of Turkmenistan expire on 10 July 2013. They are also used as international travel passports. This date will become a milestone for holders of dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship.

In December 2007 samples of a new biometric passport were approved and in summer 2008 the process of replacing old passports with new ones was launched. In July 2013 the process to replace passports will be finished.

Those citizens who, pursuant to the Agreement on dual citizenship between Turkmenistan and Russia of 1993, obtained Russian citizenship are being confronted with the problem of being unable to get new Turkmen passports without renouncing their Russian citizenship.

Two passports allow representatives of this category of residents to exit Turkmenistan unhampered and travel to the CIS countries using their Russian passport. Those who hold only Turkmen citizenship are obliged to apply for a visa since Turkmenistan has visa relations with almost all countries. (Citizens of Turkmenistan can travel only to Turkey and Georgia without visas but citizens of Turkey and Georgia are not permitted to enter Turkmenistan without a visa.)

Dual nationals hoped that the Russian authorities would manage to agree with the Turkmen side and resolve the situation since the law does not have a reciprocal effect and despite the Constitution, which allows only one citizenship, a dual national who had obtained the second citizenship when the Agreement was still valid may not be deprived of the second citizenship. Moreover, it is stipulated in the Constitution that international treaties have priority over domestic laws. Yet the Turkmen authorities have firmly decided to get rid of dual nationalities despite the existing laws. New-style Turkmen passports are not issued to holders of Russian citizenship.

It must be mentioned that Russia is not making any serious attempts to protect the rights of its citizens in Turkmenistan. Rumours were circulating that during the recent CIS summit held in Ashgabat, Putin and Berdymukhammedov had agreed to resolve the problem. To be more precise, they agreed to postpone the decision until 2017. However, these rumours have not been confirmed.

The Russian Embassy in Ashgabat does not provide any explanation to those who contact it. There are no announcements explaining the situation.

A lawyer from the border zone military unit – 2205 (this military unit covers the Ashgabat international airport) told our colleague that the old-style Turkmen passport can be used to enter and exit the country until 10 July 2013. After this date one can enter Turkmenistan with an old-style passport but will be denied exit from the country. One has either to renounce Russian citizenship and obtain a new Turkmen passport in accordance with the established procedure, or renounce Turkmen citizenship and leave the country.

We have been informed that pilots of Turkmen airlines holding dual citizenship (who make up a significant group of civil aviation aircraft personnel) contacted the President with a request to solve the problem and allow residents to hold two citizenships. Otherwise Turkmen airlines will experience a most critical shortage of personnel for both ground and air services. No response has yet been received.

Observers argue that a boom may be expected for flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg as well as for obtaining new-style Turkmen passports. The closer 10 July approaches, the more acute the situation will become, and the higher the bribes for "resolving the problems" for both air tickets and passports.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the procedure for privatizing housing has been frozen in the country. Those who wanted to sell their apartments and leave the country are unable to do so.

A similar situation occurred in the summer of 2003 when the Turkmen authorities announced that they had unilaterally rescinded the agreement on dual citizenship. Thousands of people hurried to leave Turkmenistan leaving behind apartments and property they had had for years.

The Russian authorities who fail to protect their citizens in Turkmenistan should be ready to host another influx of refugees from Turkmenistan.

Source: TIHR