On May 23, the State Duma of the Russian Federation in the final, third reading adopted amendments to the law on the procedure for leaving and entering Russia. Now they must be approved by the Federation Council and signed by the President. According to these amendments, conscripts and civil servants with a high level of access will have to deposit their passports, and FSB officers will have the right to arbitrarily confiscate passports right at the border. Lawyer Ivan Pavlov, in a conversation with The Insider, explained that the border guards will be able to confiscate passports from those who could not leave Russia anyway, and the amendments are of a “technical” nature.
“I don’t see big changes in this sense. Previously, they did not have the right to seize documents from people who have restrictions on the right to travel, namely, the passport itself. Previously, they did not have a fixed obligation of some kind, but now they have such authority. Now this gap has been eliminated, and if the right of a citizen to leave is limited, they can withdraw the document. They can now refer to the norm in the legislation in order to pick up a passport. For those whose right is already limited, there is not much difference here - they will simply be deployed at the border and denied exit, or at the same time they will also take away their passport.
According to Pavlov, if a person does not know that he has a restriction and just went abroad, the border guards are obliged to withdraw the document from him, send it to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and, after paying off the obstacles to exit, return the passport to the owner:
“Yes, this is inconvenient, because this procedure complicates the process in the bureaucratic sense. If earlier the passport was not taken away, and a person could pay off the debt and remove some other obstacles to exit and then leave, now it will be additional iterations in the exit procedure.”
The lawyer believes that the seized passports should be kept in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which issued them. There you can apply for a return. “Before, there was no such procedure when they took away passports. It is possible that there may be some excesses or that they [passports] will be destroyed, but in general, in theory, they should be kept,” he said.
“I think that the Chekists, who were the initiators of this norm, are pedants. They want everything to be registered, and they have come across cases when a citizen arrives with a passport, tries to cross the border, he is refused, but the passport remains with him - a mess. This was done so that the border guard could take his passport away from him, and so that this was spelled out in the law. Previously, a citizen could hope that another border guard would not see the flag in the base and go to another point. In order to avoid any kind of misunderstanding, the Chekists insisted that the border guards would simply have to confiscate the passport and that’s all, ”Pavlov explained.
He added that this initiative is very similar to the “crackdown trend”, but its nature is purely technical:
“There was no such norm, which suggests itself, and now they lobbied for it. Whether exit visas will be introduced or not is another trend. This is a general trend to tighten the screws, and not to eliminate technical gaps in the legislation.”