Tag Archives: Moscow

Russian Rules Leave Migrants High and Dry in Abkhazia | #Russia #FederalMigrationService

Abkhazia tends to be a destination of last resort for many labor migrants.Abkhazia tends to be a destination of last resort for many labor migrants. Wikicommons


When Rasulov Bakhtier arrived in Abkhazia in 2012 as a migrant laborer, he had no idea he would be prohibited from returning to his native Uzbekistan via Russia. As a result, Bakhtier, a construction worker and father of two, now finds himself among hundreds of “guest captives” in the separatist enclave.

Russia’s Federal Migration Service has allegedly blacklisted thousands of foreigners, mostly from Central Asia and Moldova for violating Russian migration laws, Moscow-based FerganaNews.com reported in April. Many are casual labor migrants who supposedly committed multiple misdemeanors or overstayed their “authorized period of stay” in Russia, which, as the largest economy in Eurasia, attracts millions of economic migrants from other formerly Soviet states.

Complications arise when labor migrants enter a third country from Russia and then try to transit back through Russia to get home. This is especially the case if that “country” is Abkhazia, which only Russia and a handful of other states recognize as being independent from Georgia.

Abkhazia tends to be a destination of last resort for many labor migrants. Unemployment is pervasive and the economy, largely dependent on the region’s patron, Russia, slows to a halt in winter, when tourism dries up. Construction is one sector where seasonal jobs can pop up. The positions reportedly involve tasks for which the Abkhaz do not have the skills — or, some locals scoff, the desire — to do.

Citizens of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) do not need visas for Abkhazia, which they enter via the de-facto Russian-Abkhaz checkpoint at the northern Abkhaz village of Psou.

But the easy entrance doesn’t necessarily make for an easy exit. Victims of Russia’s migration law do not understand why Russian guards would let them enter Abkhazia, if they knew they wouldn’t be able to get out.

In February, 30-something Moldovan construction worker Donika Vitali went to the Russian customs section at Psou to extend his three-month temporary transit permit for his car and his migration card in Russia. He says everything was “OK” when he left the customs building, but when he tried to return to Russia several weeks later, Russian officials said he would not be allowed into the Russian Federation for two years. “They took my fingerprints. They photographed me and everything. And then they left me in Abkhazia, a country with no way out. None. There is no way to leave,” Vitali said.

Foreigners who enter Abkhazia from Russia cannot travel south to Georgia because the Georgian law on occupied territories deems entrance into the separatist territory via Russia a criminal offense, punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

Nor can foreigners turn to their embassies for help. Abkhazia is recognized as a state by only four countries in the world, and only one, Russia, has an embassy on the territory.

There also is little that Abkhaz officials can do for these stranded migrants. Although migrants are termed “guest workers,” within Abkhazia, the breakaway region is not known to have any such formal program with CIS countries. De-facto authorities responsible for migration policy could not be reached for comment.

By all appearances, Abkhazia’s de-facto administration does not see an urgent need to address the issue of “guest captives.”

“I’ve heard there are a few cases [of stranded foreigners]. It’s not a big problem,” Abkhazia’s de-facto foreign minister, Vyacheslav Chirikba, commented to EurasiaNet.org.

Martin Tarkil, the head of the de-facto ministry’s consular department, said his department discussed the issue of stranded migrants with Alexander Ankvab, the region’s last de-facto president, but the discussions went no further.

Not all marooned foreigners are migrant workers who have broken the law in Russia. Some are tourists or come visiting relatives and then, after being robbed of their passport or money, end up stranded in Abkhazia.

Some people have turned to the United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR, for assistance. While assistance to migrants does not fall under its mandate, the agency says it helps stranded foreigners gather the proper documentation and then sends it to the International Office of Migration in Moscow to secure their transit home.

Nobody knows exactly how many people have been stranded in Abkhazia through Russian migration laws because no standard procedure exists for registering complaints. Tarkil, the de-facto Abkhaz consular official, says he has heard that about 500 people are stuck inside Abkhazia, but nobody can confirm the number.

Since last year, 71 people have appealed to the UNHCR for help, according to its records. About half of these are believed to have returned home, the agency’s Sukhumi office says.

Among them are an Uzbek man who was prevented from returning home to attend his daughter’s funeral and a Tajik who was tricked into coming to guard a house for 20,000 rubles (about $520) and could not return home because of a migration-card problem. Unemployed for several months, he eventually found a job at a stone-crushing factory only to get shot three times in an armed robbery attempt.

Bakhtier, the Uzbek construction worker, is one of the luckier ones: Confined in Abkhazia for 2 1/2 years, he managed to apply to the UNHCR for help and has found enough work to keep himself fed and sheltered. “They say I’ll be on the road on Nov. 25,” he said. “I will never come back to Abkhazia.”

This article was originally published by EurasiaNet.org.

The Moscow Times.

Moscow endorses offensive against Crimean Tatar Mejlis | #Russia #Mejlis #CrimeanTatar

Halya CoynashHalya Coynash reporting,

With western leaders suggesting they will lift sanctions if Russia complies with the Minsk agreement which says nothing about Crimea, Moscow obviously feels it can behave with impunity on the Ukrainian territory it annexed. An official statement this week, as well as ongoing treatment of the Crimean Tatars, makes it clear that impunity breeds downright repression.

On Sept 24 the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department of information and print gave its version of the attack on the Mejlis, or representative-executive body of the Crimean Tatar people. The statement, in slightly defensive mode, was perhaps prompted by the UN Conference on Indigenous Peoples which Russia tried, but failed to prevent representatives of the Mejlis from addressing.

It informs that on Sept 16, ‘the Crimean law enforcement bodies’, on the basis of a court order, carried out a search of the building in Simferopol which then housed the Mejlis and the charitable Crimea Fund. It does not mention that the editorial offices of the Mejlis newspaper ‘Avdet’ were also searched. The FSB allegedly removed “several hard disks, extremist literature, documents and firearms”.

Moscow endorses offensive against Crimean Tatar Mejlis

The grounds: “a range of infringements of Russian legislation by the said organizations”.

Two such ‘infringements’ are mentioned. The first makes it quite clear why Moscow tried very hard to prevent Mustafa Dzhemiliev, the renowned Crimean Tatar leader and Ukrainian MP from addressing the UN conference.

According to the Crimea Fund’s official papers, “its only founder is a Ukrainian national (M.A. Dzhemiliev).” The foreign ministry explains that in Russian law the founder of an NGO cannot be “a foreign national or stateless person whose presence (residence) in the Russian Federation has been decided, in accordance with Russian legislation, to be undesirable”.

The fact that Russia, under former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, should be following Soviet tradition in finding Dzhemiliev’s courage and unwavering commitment to Crimean Tatar rights, democracy and freedom, unpalatable is no surprise. Moscow is, however, also calling a Ukrainian who was living until Russian invasion in his native Crimea, a foreign national who can be banned from his homeland. It has already done the same with the current head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov, and the leaders installed by armed Russian soldiers in February have indicated that they will swiftly deport others. With this, supposedly, “in accordance with Russian legislation”.

The other ‘infringement’ mentioned is a quibble about formal and actual address of the Crimea Fund.

While affirming its ‘unfailing respect and support for the activities of ethnic organizations”, the foreign ministry declares that these must strictly comply with the law which, it bleats, is the same for all.

This is pitifully weak, especially since the court order evicting the Mejlis and Crimea Fund and forcing them to leave within 24 hours gave another reason altogether.

A different pretext has been found also for the eviction of the Mejlis in Bakhchysarai. There the mayor’s office has claimed that a suit has been lodged by a municipal housing enterprise against the Council of Teachers which leases out the building in question. It asserts that the court fully allowed the demands made by the claimant, and warns that after the court order comes into force, the Mejlis will be forcibly evicted. Neither the Bakhchysarai Regional Mejlis nor the Council of Teachers knew anything about this supposed ‘suit’, and had no idea that a court hearing was taking place.

Moscow’s foreign ministry is proving just as cynically willing as the puppet authorities installed in the Crimea to throw in any pretext, however implausible, .

‘Extremism’, however, remains the clear favourite. This is also entirely predictable. The legislation involved is notoriously loose in its definition and the criteria for placing material on the list of prohibited books an entire mystery. The Crimean authorities are quite brazen in treating any opposition as evidence of either ‘extremism’ or ‘incitement to inter-ethnic enmity’. The latest target is the only Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR. The claim this time is that ATR ‘is persistently fostering the idea of possible repression on ethnic or religious grounds, is encouraging the formation of anti-Russian public opinion and is deliberately stirring up distrust of the authorities and their actions among Crimean Tatars, with this indirectly creating the threat of extremist activities.”

In short, say that the Crimea was annexed by Russia, that the rights of Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians and others are being infringed, and you risk being labelled an ‘extremist’, prosecuted for ‘inciting inter-ethnic enmity’ or deported as ‘undesirable’. And most terrifyingly, you risk being ignored by western leaders who really don’t want to know.

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.

Russia’s foreign minister calls for ‘reset 2.0′ in relations with US | #US #Russia #Ukraine #Reset2

Sergei Lavrov says situation in Ukraine is improving and recalls ‘reset’ phrase used by Washington at start of Obama presidency.

Reuters in Moscow.
Russian minister for foreign affairs, Sergei Lavrov, speaks at the UN general assembly.Russian minister for foreign affairs, Sergei Lavrov, speaks at the UN general assembly. Photograph: UPI /Landov / Barcroft Media/UPI /Landov / Barcroft Media.

Moscow called on Sunday for a new “reset 2.0” in relations with Washington, saying the situation in Ukraine that had led to western sanctions against Russia was improving thanks to Kremlin peace initiatives.

Washington and Brussels accuse Moscow of supporting a pro-Russia rebellion in east Ukraine and have imposed sanctions, which they have repeatedly tightened since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March.

The conflict has brought relations between Moscow and the west to their lowest level since the end of the cold war. President Barack Obama said last week that the sanctions could be lifted if Russia takes the path of peace and diplomacy.

In television interviews on Sunday Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who on Saturday made critical remarks about US, western and Nato attitudes to Russia in a speech at the United Nations in New York, said it was time to repeat the “reset”, a word Washington used to describe an attempt to mend ties early in Obama’s presidency.

But he also repeated criticisms of Nato’s “cold war mentality”, criticised Washington for excluding Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad from its campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria, and said Washington “can no longer act as the prosecutor, the judge, and the executioner in every part of the world”.

“We are absolutely interested in bringing the ties to normal but it was not us who destroyed them. Now they require what the American would probably call a ‘reset’,” Lavrov said, according to a transcript of one interview on his ministry’s website.

“The current US administration is destroying today much of the cooperation structure that it created itself along with us. Most likely, something more will come up – a reset No2 or a reset 2.0,” he told Russia’s Channel 5 television.

Shortly after Obama took office in 2009, his then secretary of state Hilary Clinton presented Lavrov with a red “reset” button that was intended to signal a fresh start to relations that had been strained under Obama’s predecessor George W Bush. In a diplomatic gaffe much mocked at the time, the button bore a Russian label that said “overload” instead of “reset”; the two words are similar in Russian.

Lavrov said that thanks to “initiatives of the Russian president”, the situation was improving on the ground in Ukraine, where a ceasefire has been in place for several weeks. The 5 September truce is largely holding, though some fighting has continued in places including the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

“The ceasefire is taking shape, though of course not without problems. Monitoring mechanisms have been introduced, talks between Russia, the European Union and Ukraine have started, gas talks have restarted,” Lavrov said.

Western countries say thousands of Russian troops have fought in Ukraine and accuse Moscow of sending weapons, including a surface-to-air missile used to shoot down a Malaysian airliner over rebel-held territory in July. Moscow denies participating in the conflict or arming the rebels.

Speaking to Russia’s state-funded international broadcaster, RT, Lavrov said “Nato still has the cold war mentality”, and said Moscow needed to modernise its conventional and nuclear arms, though he denied this would lead to “a new arms race”.

Lavrov also repeated Russian criticism of the US-led air campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria, accusing Washington of a “double standard” for refusing to cooperate with Syrian president Assad. Washington has repeatedly called for Assad’s dismissal and backed some of the rebels fighting to topple him since early 2011.

“There’s no room for petty grievances in politics,” Lavrov told RT. “I very much hope that the United States will finally … realise that they can no longer act as the prosecutor, the judge, and the executioner in every part of the world and that they need to cooperate to resolve issues.”

Lavrov said that despite the Western sanctions, Russia did not feel isolated on the world stage. Moscow has responded to the sanctions by banning most Western food imports.

“We feel no isolation. But, having said that, I want to emphasise in particular that we do not want to go to extremes and abandon the European and American directions in our foreign economic cooperation,” Lavrov told Channel 5.

“We have no desire to continue a sanctions war, trading blows,” Lavrov also said. “First of all, it is important that our partners understand the futility of ultimatums and threats.”

The Guardian.

Russia Fights to Keep Veto Right in UN Security Council | #Russia #UN #UNSecurityCouncil

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (C) confers with Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin (R) before addresing the U.N. Security Council during the 69th U.N. General Assembly in New York.Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (C) confers with Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin (R) before addressing the U.N. Security Council during the 69th U.N. General Assembly in New York. Brendan McDermid / Reuters

Moscow opposes calls to limit veto rights for UN Security Council members, a Russian diplomat was quoted as saying by TASS news agency Friday.

“We’re against any change in veto rights,” Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said on the sidelines of the 69th UN General Assembly in New York.

He added that “talks about a reform of the Security Council need to continue,” but did not elaborate.

A proposal to suspend veto rights in the event of grave crimes against humanity that mandate urgent reaction, pitched in 2013 by France, was revived at a high-profile discussion at the assembly.

Separately, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski urged a reform of the Security Council in a speech at the assembly.

Komorowski gave no outline for the reform, but explicitly linked his calls to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russia is accused of backing pro-Moscow separatists who are fighting the Ukrainian army.

The Security Council, established in 1946, is the only UN body whose decisions are binding for members.

The council, which hands out mandates on military and peacekeeping operations, has five permanent members: Russia, the United States, Britain, France and China, all of whom can veto a decision.

The council also has 10 non-permanent members, which hold positions for two-year terms, but they have no veto rights.

Russia has repeatedly deployed its veto in recent years to block decisions lobbied by Western powers, including draft resolutions on war-torn Syria and Ukraine.

The Moscow Times.

Hungary suspends gas supplies to Ukraine under pressure from Moscow | #Russia #Budapest #Ukraine #Gazprom

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban announces move after Russia threatens to cut off countries re-exporting its gas to Kiev.

Agence France-Presse in Budapest
The Hungarian gas pipeline operator FGSZ's distribution facility in Kiskundorozsma.The Hungarian gas pipeline operator FGSZ’s distribution facility in Kiskundorozsma. Photograph: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters

Budapest has announced that it will freeze its gas deliveries to Ukraine, as the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, said his country could not afford to run the risk of losing its own Russian gas supplies.

“Hungary cannot get into a situation in which, due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, it cannot access its required supply of energy,” Orban said on state radio following threats from Moscow.

Hungary’s gas pipeline network operator FGSZ said late on Thursday that it had suspended supplies to neighbouring Ukraine indefinitely for technical reasons, a move Ukraine’s state-owned gas firm Naftogaz described as “unexpected and unexplained”.

Orban’s statement followed a warning from Moscow that it could cut off European countries that have been re-exporting gas to Ukraine to help Kiev cope with Moscow’s energy sanctions.

The threat came as energy chiefs gathered in Berlin for EU-mediated talks aimed keeping Russian gas supplies to Ukraine flowing and preventing parts of the country being left without winter heating.

The European commission rapped Hungary, an EU member state, for cutting off its so-called reverse flow supplies to Ukraine.

“The message from the commission is very clear. We expect all member states to facilitate reverse flows as agreed by the European council in the interest of a shared energy security,” the commission spokeswoman Helene Banner said in Brussels.

The Hungarian move came days after a meeting in Budapest between Alexei Miller, the head of Russian gas giant Gazprom, and Orban, who often warns against damaging commercial relations with Russia.

“In the next period we will need large quantities of gas … We will receive this, I agreed this with Alexei Miller,” Orban said.

Russia is Europe’s biggest gas supplier, with Hungary one of 12 eastern and central EU member states that rely on Moscow for more than three-quarters of their gas.

Price disputes between Russia and Ukraine have led to cuts in supplies to Europe twice in the last decade.

The EU began reverse flows of gas through Hungary, Poland and Slovakia when Moscow ended all gas sales to Ukraine in June. Kiev had balked at paying a higher price Moscow imposed in the wake of ousting in February of the Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.

Russia’s energy minister, Alexander Novak, told a German newspaper on Friday that reverse flows of Russian gas to Ukraine were illegal and could leave some nations without Gazprom supplies for the first time since 2009.

The EU insists the deliveries are legal.

Naftogaz has said Hungary’s decision to halt deliveries “goes against the core principles of the European Union single energy market”.

The Guardian.