08/12/2022, 16.59
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Ukraine war driving Russians to 'buy' Turkish citizenship

With an investment of US$ 400,000 Russians can obtain a new citizenship. More and more are ploughing their money into Turkey, representing 60 per cent of all real estate sales to foreigners. For many Russians, this is their “plan B" after the European Union is no longer accessible, a trend that worriers and irks the Unite States. Meanwhile, Turkey is helping Russia circumvent sanctions.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The Kremlin’s war on Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia are driving a growing number of Russians to “buy” Turkish citizenship.

Despite concerns by the United States, Russians can obtain a new citizenship and related passport by investing US$ 400,000 in Turkey, thus getting around US and EU punitive measures.

Recently, many Russians have left home for a new life, starting businesses, by making such an “investment” to acquire Turkish citizenship.

Such an opportunity has existed since 2018, but the war has boosted demand for access to a country already famous as a favourite tourist destination for Russians.

Between 2018 and 2021 at least 20,000 foreigners – mostly Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans –acquired Turkish citizenship, by investing at least US$ 250,000.

Although Turkey’s Interior Ministry does not regularly release official data, Middle East Eye estimates that Russians invested US$ 5 to US$ 10 billion in Turkey, perhaps more.

However, this sparked some criticism in Turkey, where the government was accused of “distributing cheap citizenship”; as a result, the authorities raised the minimum investment to US$ 400,000.

As a result, this year, Russians are driving demand for Turkish citizenship, this according to Muhammet Yasir Taflan, a lawyer who specialises in immigration through investment,

“Currently, nearly 60 per cent of house sales to foreigners are done by Russians,” he explained. “It was less than one per cent last year.”

Since the war in Ukraine started, Turkey has maintained ties with Russia and Vladimir Putin by rejecting sanctions, despite its NATO membership and closing the Bosphorus to belligerent powers, i.e. Russia.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is working hard, for domestic reasons as well, to organise a meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine. This has enabled him to keep alive, and even strengthen, the relationship with Moscow.

At the end of the last meeting between Erdogan and Putin, five Turkish banks joined the Russian mir payment system, accepting payments in roubles and with Russian credit cards.

Meanwhile, between February and June of this year, nearly 4,900 Russians have bought a house in Turkey. For Bayram Tekce, deputy chairman for Real Estate International Promotion Association (GIGDER), for Russians Turkish citizenship has become “a plan B”.

“We have a different type of Russian coming to Turkey this year compared to past years,” he explained. They are “the type you see in Nice or the Côte d'Azur, who have better income and better education, [. . .] looking for ways to put order into their lives.”

Now Tekce’s company sells up to 25 homes to Russians per month, “half of them are for citizenship purposes and the rest are for obtaining a residency.”

This trend has set off alarm bells in Washington with the United States sending an envoy to Ankara last June to discuss the matter.

The Turks have tried to appease the Americans, noting that Russians seeking citizenship are ordinary people, not pro-Putin oligarchs.

Yet, Turkish newspaper Dunya recently reported that Russian investments go beyond citizenship and residency, and include using Turkey to circumvent sanctions and import goods, including luxury items, into the Russian market.

“Goods that will go to Russia from many parts of the world, especially the EU and the Far East, are first brought to Turkey, and then to Russia after the containers are changed,” the paper writes.

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