Russia orders 174,000 new diplomatic passports ‘in suspected scam to allow Putin’s top officials, spies and their spouses to bypass sanctions and infiltrate the West’
- The foreign ministry in Moscow has demanded 174K fresh diplomatic passports
- But the ministry has just 15,000 employees, of which only one in three should qualify as a diplomat, prompting speculation over the reason for the extras
- Opposition media outlet SOTA said FSB agents qualify for diplomatic status when on a foreign mission under Russian law, suggesting spies may be sent
- Ukraine war hardliner Sergei Lavrov heads the Russian foreign ministry
Russia has ordered tens of thousands of new diplomatic passports in a suspected scam to allow officials and spies – and their spouses – to bypass Western sanctions.
The foreign ministry in Moscow has suddenly demanded the rapid printing of almost 175,000 of the elite travel documents at a cost of £3.3million.
Sergei Lavrov heads the foreign ministry in Moscow, which has demanded the rapid printing of almost 175,000 of the elite travel documents at a cost of £3.3million. But the ministry has only 15,000 employees, of which only one in three should qualify for diplomatic status
A report by opposition media outlet SOTA said that under Russian laws employees of the FSB security service – the largest successor to the Soviet-era KGB – qualify for diplomatic passports when on foreign missions.
So do officers of the FSO, a protection service which guards Vladimir Putin and other top officials.
MPs, judges and prosecutors can all claim the prestigious passports, which can speed travel and avoid visas in some countries.
Spouses may also qualify, but so do thousands of civil servants working for Putin’s Kremlin bureaucracy.
The new order by the Foreign ministry comes amid unprecedented sanctions by the West restricting the travel options of many among the Russian elite.
Opposition media outlet SOTA said that employees of the FSB, the Russian security service, qualify for diplomatic passports. The order sparked fears that many agents may now be on their way into the west under the guise of diplomacy
The new order by the Foreign ministry comes amid unprecedented sanctions by the West restricting the travel options of many among the Russian elite
‘Why does the Foreign Ministry need 175,000 [diplomatic passports] when the number of [its] employees according to various sources is no more than 15,000, of which only a third are diplomats?,’ asked SOTA
The suspicion is that these passports will be used by Russian officials and spies seeking access to the West.
The report concluded: ‘The question is – where are they planning to go?’
The EU has barred Russian diplomatic passport holders from obtaining automatic multi-entry visas, and will also fingerprint users.