Staunton, March 28 – Over the past week, somewhat more than 20,000 residents of Crimea have asked for Russian Federation passports and Russian officials have handed out about 6500, Anatoly Fomenko, the deputy head of Russia’s Federal Migration Service, told Russia’s official ITAR-TASS news agency earlier this week.
Fomenko said that Russian officials are trying to provide passports in as “rapidly quick a manner” as possible but that many of the 1.5 million people on the peninsula, “a quite large number” as he observed, are going to have to show some “patience.”
That is because, he said, there are “definite legal aspects” that must be attended to, aspects which make “the technology of registration and handing out of a passport quite a complicated procedure,” especially given that many people involved are either new to the task or only recently arrived from the Russian Federation.
But given the overwhelming support that Moscow said Crimeans had displayed in the referendum for joining their peninsula to the Russian Federation, these figures are quite “miserly” and call into question Russia’s claims about local attitudes, according to Oleg Kozyrev, a Russian blogger who has examined the situation.
He notes that there are currently 27 districts in Crimea. Fomenko’s figures mean that on average, only about 740 in each applied for a Russian passport, even though some of these districts have populations of more than 65,000. That means that only slightly more than one percent of the residents have decided to take this step so far.
It is of course true that some Crimean residents already have passports or are seeking to avoid what some have claimed are “long lines” for those who apply now. But the figures Fomenko offers do help to explain why the Russian authorities, apparently “in a panic,” are threatening “’to hand out passports automatically’” to boost the numbers.