TALLINN - The Russian Embassy has hit back at the Estonian press, rebuffing allegations that their consulate in Narva is launching a massive campaign to grant Russian citizenship to stateless residents.
On Monday Sept. 29 local press reported that the Russian Consulate in Narva, the predominantly Russian-populated city in Estonia's northeast, was about to start a wide scale campaign to distribute Russian passports to stateless residents.
The same day the Russian Embassy issued a press release denying the claims, which originated from the news agency Baltic News Service, stating the accusations were unfounded and irresponsible.
"Considering such an important topic as the citizenship admissions of one or another country it is absolutely unacceptable to be guided by conjectures and unconfirmed information," the embassy's press unit said.
The embassy asserted that the citizenship decisions of stateless residents were beyond the realms of either government, as the decision is the inalienable right of the individual.
"It is known that in democratic countries, the person deciding upon such a question is using one of their basic freedoms 's the freedom of choice," the release stated.
The embassy also expressed regret that certain circles in Estonia were trying to manipulate the press for the benefit of their specific political goals. They suspect that unscrupulous individuals are trying to scare the public by fabricating the claims, probably to make Russia appear responsible for the steep decline in the speed of naturalization in Estonia.
While the Russian Embassy refused to make further comment, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told The Baltic Times that they were unaware of any developments in Narva and that within the confines of Estonian law the Russian Embassy can act as it likes.
"We don't have information that they are giving out extra passports, but if they are going to do that and it's all in accordance with Estonian law, then they can do that and we don't have a problem with it," said a spokesperson for the ministry.
The allegations are particularly controversial, as prior to Russia's recent conflict with Georgia the Kremlin granted citizenship and passports to large numbers of the people residing in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. When conflict erupted, Moscow then justified its military involvement on the grounds of protecting Russian citizens.
The accusations follow amendments to Russian citizenship law made earlier this month by the State Duma (lower house), easing the requirements for expatriates wishing to re-adopt Russian citizenship.
Applicants for citizenship under the program are no longer required to have five years residence in Russia, knowledge of the Russian language or legal income.