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A session of the Russian State Duma (file photo) (ITAR-TASS)
March 17, 2006 -- Russia's parliament today gave initial backing to bills designed to legalize the status of some 20 million migrants from former Soviet republics.
Two bills, passed by the lower house of parliament in the first reading, will offer migrants stronger legal protection and better working conditions. Migrants would no longer have to undergo lengthy procedures for renewing their residence and work permits.
The new rules would apply to all of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Independent States, except Turkmenistan and Georgia.
The bills were strongly opposed by Russian nationalists, who claim that the migrants are taking jobs from Russians.
The bills must still be passed in two more readings.
Click on the map to see how many Russians live in each of the former Soviet republics.
RUSSIANS OUTSIDE OF RUSSIA: A total of some 30 million ethnic Russians remain in the republics of the former Soviet Union, including large diasporas in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. This historical legacy has often been a source of tension between Russia and its neighbors. "Support for the rights of compatriots abroad is a crucial goal," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his April 2005 state-of-the-nation address. "It cannot be subject to a diplomatic or political bargaining. Those who do not respect, observe, or ensure human rights have no right to demand that human rights be respected by others."
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