Russian Embassy in Estonia halts processing of citizenship renunciation

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The Russian Embassy, on Pikk tänav, Tallinn.
The Russian Embassy, on Pikk tänav, Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Russian Embassy in Tallinn is currently not processing citizenship renunciation requests, according to its website. Surrendering citizenship of any other state is required in order to obtain Estonian citizenship via naturalization.

It is not yet clear if the development relates to Estonia's decision last week to pare down the number of staff permitted to work at the embassy.

A notice has appeared on the Russian Embassy's website (link in Russian), stating that the processing of citizenship renunciation is on hold temporarily.

In Estonia, in order to obtain citizenship via naturalization requires official confirmation that the individual has surrendered their previous citizenship(s).

It is not clear when the announcement appeared on the Russian Embassy's site, nor when renunciation processing might re-commence, only that the move is a temporary one.

Screenshot of the Russian Embassy notification as it appeared on the embassy's website as of the morning of Thursday, January 19, 2023. Source: ERR

The process of renouncing Russian citizenship had already been a complicated and time-consuming one, ERR reports, and was subject of an episode of ETV investigative show "Pealtnägija" last autumn. In the past it had often entailed physically traveling to the Russian Federation, in order to submit the relevant documentation.

Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said last Wednesday that the Russian Embassy must cut its staffing levels by over a half, in order to bring parity with Estonia's embassy in Moscow. This will mean 13 diplomats and eight more non-diplomatic staff leaving the country.

Obtaining Estonian citizenship by naturalization entails passing a language test, in addition to providing proof of citizenship renunciation, among other formalities. Getting the correct documentation has in the recent past proved difficult for those who have, for instance, fled conflict zones, such as in Syria.

Citizenship by jus sanguinis does not entail having to surrender any citizenships of other states an individual may have.

ERR's Russian-language portal states that while over 72,000 Russian citizens were resident in Estonia as of the end of 2022, from February 24 last year, ie. the date of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the number of Russian citizens applying to obtain Estonian citizenship had more than doubled.

Whereas in August in previous years, fewer than 200 such applications were made, in August 2022 the figure was close to 500, it is reported.

February 24, the number of Russian citizens wishing to obtain an Estonian passport increased by 2.5 times. In August, there were 490 applications, whereas in previous years there were less than 200.

Russian Embassy: Normal work arrangements to resume in February

The Russian Embassy in Tallinn subsequently announced that its functions will be reorganized in order to ensure normal service, while citizenship issues can be dealt with again from next month.

In a comment given to ERR's Russian-language portal, the embassy said that "hostile" actions by the Estonian authorities had obstructed its normal functioning, intentionally, in providing consular services to Russian citizens, meaning the consular section is currently only dealing with the most urgent matters.

Following reorganization and personnel measures, consular functions, including citizenship issues, will return next month, the embassy added.

Editor's note: This article was updated to include comment from the Russian Embassy and figures on the numbers of Russian citizens reported to have applied for Estonian citizenship.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Allan Aksim

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