Russia is taking passports from state industry employees and “increasingly disaffected” public officials to prevent them from fleeing abroad, the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) has said.
Russian officials and state company workers are “increasingly disaffected” and are now considered a flight risk by the government which is subjecting them to “increasingly severe foreign travel restrictions”, the MOD had said in their frequent Ukraine war intelligence update.
These extreme moves are necessary to “prevent the flight or defection of increasingly disaffected officials”, the MOD claimed, noting some have “likely had to forfeit their passports… Employees closer to the centre of power face more severe restrictions; Kremlin officials are banned from all international leisure travel.”
The illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is continuing.
The map below is the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 15 March 2023.
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The intelligence update suggested these restrictions could continue to tighten with time and will come to encompass a wider group of state employees.
The move to prevent defections does not, perhaps, auger well for the levels of support for Putin’s prosecution of his war against Ukraine, even at the top of Russian society from which Kremlin officials will be drawn. The British MOD compares the development to moves by Russia during the Cold War, when travel between the communist nations of the Soviet Union for work and leisure was possible for many, but going outside was considerably more difficult.
The claims by the UK MOD follow similar reports on the passport crackdown in independent Russian-language media last week, with reports citing an investigation claiming that civil servants with access to state secrets had been asked to hand over their passports to state security for “safe keeping”. Those who refused, it is claimed, were given the option to resign their positions.
In other cases, it is alleged, that lower-level employees in Russian state companies may not have their passports confiscated, if they make a request to take a foreign holiday outside of Russia-ally states, they simply have their time off request turned down. It is claimed the most recent crackdown — similar restrictions, though less severe, have been in place since Russia annexed the Crimea in 2014 — after a Russian politician went on holiday to Mexico earlier this year, causing a scandal in Russia.
The move to snatch passports from government officials is strangely at odds with the eagerness the Russian state has shown to give out passports in Ukraine, however. As part of a push to colonise newly occupied areas, officials issue Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens in what has been described as a “fast track” system. By February 2022 some 720,000 people had been given paperwork in this way, it was claimed.