Russian Deportation of Foreign Workers May Intensify in Retaliation for Western Sanctions

Russia is kicking out foreign workers and revoking working visas for various minor reasons. Companies fear it will get worse due to the standoff with Ukraine and the sanctions headed toward Russia if it decides to annex Crimea.

Almost 1,000 people from countries outside the former Soviet Union have had their work visas revoked for committing two or more “administrative violations” since the end of last year, when the migration service and traffic police linked their databases, according to immigration authorities. Such offenses can be as minor as a parking ticket, smoking in prohibited areas or even jaywalking.

“Individuals have been stopped on the border for having two speeding tickets and told their visa is no longer any good,” said Alexis Rodzianko, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Moscow, which promotes the interests of Exxon Mobil Corp., PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) and 800 other companies.

The deportations started before the Ukrainian parliament deposed Russia-backed president Viktor Yanukovych. The Association of European Businesses was in the middle of talks with Russia to halt the deportations, but the talks stopped and there are no plans to continue.

Russia has a history of bullying any country that wants to join the European Union by targeting its workers in the country. Moldova was in talks to join the EU when Russia decided to deport its workers and forbid them reentry. In September, 200,000 Moldovan citizens were denied entry into Russia because they violated Russia’s immigration law. Kommersant-MD said the workers received a special stamp on their passports to show exclusion from Russia.

The trade deal between the EU and Ukraine is the main reason for the crisis between Ukraine and Russia. It was proposed May 2013, and Russia made moves to persuade Yanukovych to turn it down. In August, Russia told Ukraine it would deport any worker with a Ukrainian accent because its data showed that many of the workers were in Russia illegally. On August 14, Russia put more controls on Ukrainian exports into the country.


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