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Russia is confiscating passports from its elites, fearing they will defect over its invasion of Ukraine, report says

A man in a black coat holds a Russian passportA Russian man waits in a queue to have his passport checked at the Vaalimaa border check point in Virolahti, Finland, on September 25, 2022.

Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva/via REUTERS

  • Russia is taking the passports of officials and state company execs, per the Financial Times.
  • It’s worried that elites may defect as they oppose the war, per the report.
  • The UK MOD earlier said Russia was taking passports to stop “the flight or defection” of officials.

Russia’s security services are taking passports from senior officials and executives in state-owned companies, according to a new report by the Financial Times.

The outlet said Russia was worried about defections from people who oppose the invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin and its FSB agency fear people could leave because they privately object to the war and feel the sanctions on Russia are ruining their lavish lifestyles, the report said.

Sources told the newspaper that security officers demanded some of the country’s elites hand over travel documents, enforcing Soviet-era rules that had rarely been applied until recently.

The Financial Times did not name the sources, saying only that they were familiar with the situation and that there were several of them.

One said that executives in a state-owned company have been banned from going more than a two-hour drive from Moscow without permission.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, confirmed to the FT that travel rules had tightened since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

He said that people who work in “sensitive” areas had their ability to travel abroad limited.

He said that “since the start of the special military operation, more attention has been paid to this issue,” using the euphemism Russia uses to refer to its war in Ukraine.

He did specifically address the claim that passports had been taken away.

The report came after a UK Ministry of Defence intelligence update in March that said some officials had to give their passports to Russia’s security service.

They said it was a move “likely designed to prevent the flight or defection of increasingly disaffected officials.”

Former officials and executives told the Financial Times that the state had rarely enforced its power to confiscate passports from officials with access to state secrets.

But Russia started applying the rule more after it annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014. And it is now applying the rule to an even wider swathe of people, the sources said — including people who don’t have access to any state secrets.

It is unclear how many officials and elite figures in Russia oppose the war, as authorities threaten harsh treatment for people who criticize it.

Many wealthy Russians have moved to places like Dubai since the invasion began, while some officials have fled to the West, where they have offered to hand over secrets in exchange for being granted asylum.

Tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of people also fled Russia after it announced a partial mobilization of reservists in September. It’s not clear if officials or senior business people were among them.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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