Minister of Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) on Thursday warned stateless residents that if they accept Russian citizenship as part of a campaign launched by Russia then their Estonian residence permit will not be extended and they will face deportation.
On October 26, Russia launched a citizenship campaign aimed at people who do not live in the Russian Federation, and know its history or language, making them eligible for citizenship, the minister said at the government's weekly press conference.
"Basically, this concerns people in Estonia who are holders of grey passports who do not have citizenship – Russia is offering them citizenship on preferential terms," he said.
"This is yet another exercise in influence, aimed at creating instability not only in the Baltic States but in all parts of the former Soviet Union. Our answer here is very simple and unambiguous: We are working to ensure that if someone is going to take up this citizenship, they must understand that we have sanctioned the grounds on which Russian citizens can stay in Estonia today and the possibility of coming to live in Estonia permanently or temporarily. In other words, if they have a residence permit in Estonia today as a holder of a grey passport, if they renounce their grey passport status, if they take Russian citizenship – the citizenship of the aggressor state today – then by that logic they will be sanctioned, their residence permit is likely to be revoked sooner or later, one way or the other," Läänemets said.
"Estonia is certainly not going to allow any increase in the number of Russian citizens. And that is just today's logic – if citizenship is taken, it is hard to believe that they would be loyal to Estonia. So, my recommendation is that if anybody dares to think about it, even for some pragmatic reason, then I will personally work to have such a person's residence permit revoked and them expelled from Estonia," he emphasized.
Approximately 80,000 stateless people still live in Estonia.
Estonia banned Russian citizens from crossing its borders soon after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The interior minister believes the citizenship campaign would not be too successful among Estonian residents because Russia's extensive aggression against Ukraine in 2022 actually significantly increased the interest of Russian citizens living in Estonia in obtaining Estonian citizenship.
"If in 2021, 291 citizens of the Russian Federation applied for Estonian citizenship, in 2022 this number more than doubled to 726 individuals. Rather, the problem has been that Russia does not let people renounce their citizenship, which complicates many from obtaining Estonian citizenship," Postimees reported him as saying.
This article was updated to add additional quotes from Lauri Läänemets and context about applications for Estonian citizenship.
Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright