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ISW: Russian “compatriot card” program potentially justifying future foreign interventions

Russia creating “Electronic Compatriot Card” program offering services, possibly citizenship to Russians abroad, likely for justifying further aggression, ISW says.
isw russian compatriot card program potentially justifying future foreign interventions passports russianconsultantscom
Russian passports. Photo:
ISW: Russian “compatriot card” program potentially justifying future foreign interventions

Russia appears to be developing a system called the “Electronic Compatriot Card” to legalize the status of its so-called “compatriots abroad,” likely as part of efforts to justify further aggression and hybrid operations overseas under the guise of “protecting” these compatriots, according to analysis by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Yevgeny Primakov, head of the Russian Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo), stated in a May 22 interview that the agency is creating an “Electronic Compatriot Card” program. This would allow Russia’s compatriots abroad to access unspecified government services, visit and work in Russia, and potentially apply for Russian citizenship.

According to ISW, Primakov said Russia is preparing a pilot version in several neighboring countries and could begin issuing the first cards by late 2024. Compatriots would provide personal information through an online application to receive a card granting access to various services likely through an online platform.

While some of Russia’s compatriots may not hold citizenship and be “skeptical” of Russia’s policies, Primakov stated they are still compatriots “in one way or another.” He claimed Russia has between 20 and 40 million “compatriots” abroad, though the definition is unclear.

Rossotrudnichestvo has worked on the “Electronic Compatriot Card” project since at least 2021. In 2023, Primakov said the agency plans to open “certification centers” at Russian House (Russkyi Dom) centers worldwide for identity verification as part of the application process.

The Russian Orthodox Church previously called for prioritizing mass repatriation of “compatriots” to Russia. The “Compatriot Card” could provide a pathway, fitting the Kremlin’s “Russian World” narrative used to justify aggression by claiming to “protect” Russian compatriots abroad.

Previously, Moldovan and Ukrainian officials have previously warned that Russian officials use Russkyi Dom to promote Russian propaganda and conduct “subversive work” abroad.

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