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What Does Russian Media Mean When It Reports Six Ukrainians Left In Crimea?

Ukrainians stand with taped mouths during their rally in Simferopol, Crimea.
Ukrainians stand with taped mouths during their rally in Simferopol, Crimea.
"Only six Crimeans remain citizens of Ukraine after the [Crimea] referendum," says an April 2 headline in Lifenews, an outlet believed to have ties to the Russian security services.

"Only six residents of Crimea want to stay citizens of Ukraine," says RIA Novosti, now run by the Kremlin's propaganda chief, Dmitry Kiselyov.

The headlines are derived from a statement by Fyodor Karpovets, the head of passport processing at Russia's Federal Migration Service.

Karpovets recently announced that "currently, only six people had submitted documents to preserve their Ukrainian citizenship."

A RFE/RL Ukrainian Service journalist in Simferopol, Crimea, however, says the reports are misleading on two fronts.

First, Crimeans have been presented not with an option to "preserve Ukrainian citizenship" but instead to reject the Russian one.

Under Russian legislation, the only Crimeans who will not be considered Russian nationals after April 20 are those that personally go to a migration service office and reject Russian citizenship status.

Of course, almost all Crimeans also hold Ukrainian passports.

Under Ukrainian law, dual citizenship is not recognized and can be punishable by an administrative penalty of up to $150, but it is not currently considered a criminal offense. Russia accepts dual citizenship.

It seems, therefore, that those who receive Russian passports should still also be considered citizens of Ukraine unless they personally reject the status.

Though Moscow clearly sees acceptance of Russian citizenship as an inherent rejection of Ukrainian citizenship, the argument does not appear to have legal bearing.

The Ukrainian Service journalist also disputes the number of people who have rejected Russian citizenship.

The journalist, who says a colleague counted 19 people lined up to refuse citizenship at a local migration office, estimates that "hundreds" have already turned down Russian nationality.

Moscow is racing to produce passports for residents of Crimea and has issued over 25,000 since Russia's annexation late last month, according to the migration service.

-- RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service