In the midst of the Maidan, many foreigners have come to Ukraine to help Ukrainian people to fight for their freedom, and when the war between Russia and Ukraine began, many of them went to the front as part of the volunteer battalions, later they were joined by those citizens of other countries who did not participate in the Maidan. Russians, Georgians, Belarusians, Poles and many other foreigners took part in the ATO on the side of Ukraine, in the words of the English Lord Byron, who died for the independence of Greece, "if you cannot fight for your own freedom, fight for freedom of your neighbor". At present day, foreign nationals who arrived to defend the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine, were in an unenviable position: it is impossible to return to their homeland, but in Ukraine there are no legal possibilities to a peaceful life.
Volunteer battalion is the answer
When the war erupted in Ukraine, no one asked about the citizenship of future fighters in 2014. "Donbas", "Aydar", "Azov", "Pravyi Sektor", "Shakhtersk", in all of these battalions there were representatives of other states, as they could not get to the official armed forces due to direct legal prohibition.
Soon almost all volunteer battalions were formalized as the units of Ministry of Defence or Ministry of Internal Affairs, but we were still in these battalions, because, firstly, foreigners would continue to fight for Ukraine, and secondly, Ukrainian officials have promised to create conditions for legalization of fighters up to the contract service and citizenship.
In summer of 2014 hot fights started, when the Ukrainian army, town after town,has been confidently moving towards its legitimate borders. However, by September the release process has stalled, the battalions began to go on the rotation. Battalion commanders sent requests to the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs, President’s Administration, and personally to Poroshenko. December 2, 2014, Petro Poroshenko has promised to sign a decree granting citizenship to all of us. And it remains a promise. Since then Verkhovna Rada has been able to write a number of laws specifically for us, but these laws do not change the situation at all.
The laws for foreigners participating in ATO
Only two laws were introduced in Verkhovna Rada that can actually help foreign foreigners to obtain citizenship: bill №1901 and №3433, but also there were adopted three more "useless" bills: №2389, №2847, and №920-VIII.
The bill №1901. It is completing the article 9 on nationality, adding as the grounds on which the President may grant citizenship, is participation inATO. In fact, it duplicates the point of granting citizenship on the basis of "public interest" and "special merits". Under the bill, if the volunteer battalion, in which the foreigner fought, which later became part of official bodies, has the right to apply for citizenship, and the examination period by not more than two months from the date of filing. It means that the President has the right to grant citizenship to such foreigners, and has the right not to provide it. Given the fact that the submitted article 9 on nationality (State interests and merits) documents of foreigners from"Azov" battalion were rejected, meaning of the bill is lost. The law was passed in the first reading only 04.23.2015 and no one knows whether it is further voted or not.
The bill №3433. The only true bill that solves almost all problems of foreigners participating in ATO. Firstly, it prohibits bureaucrats to demand from a resident of the country, supporting Russia's aggression in Ukraine, to present some documents issued in his country. Second, it solves the problem of the delayed term of the issuance of a residence permit on the basis of participation in ATO. Thirdly, Article 9 complements the Citizenship Clause, under which a foreigner without any delay and restrictions shall be entitled to apply for citizenship in the provision of evidence of participation in ATO (report of commander, court decision, etc.), and in the case failure, the foreigner has the right to apply to a court. However, the bill has not been considered by Parliament, even in the first reading.
The bill №2389 and recently adopted № 2847. In total, two bills allow foreigners lawfully who live in the territory of Ukraine and do not have a criminal record, to enter into a contract for 3 years service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. After the 3 years of the contract the foreigner, if he was awarded the state award, has the right to ask the president to grant the citizenship, and he has the right to refuse. However, state awards in Ukraine are often given to presidents, ambassadors, and mayors. Also, the law states that the basis for a legal stay on the territory of Ukraine of the foreigner is his contract: that is, the day after the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the contract, the State Border Service can deport the citizen due to the lack of legal grounds for the stay on the territory Ukraine. The "new" foreignersdo not want to go to the army. There is no singlesuccessful case of official servingof foreigners in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and employees of military offices directly say that it is impossible, since there are no mechanisms for this purpose.
The draft law №920-VIII. Itallows the foreigners to serve in the ranks of the National Guard, not explaining the mechanisms and other aspects of the service and the adoption of the service, and therefore at the moment it is not feasible.
Neither to leave, nor to stay
The vast majority of foreigners after taking part in the war on the side of Ukraine cannot return to their homeland, regardless of whether they have lived continuously on the territory of Ukraine or arrived after the war began. At first, it concerned the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, whose top officials have stated that they will judge all the citizens, who took part in ATO. Today such tendencies are observed, for example, in Georgia, December 5, 2015 years on trumped-up charges was arrested Zaal Lataria, major of Georgian army, who fought in Ukraine for eight months.
The foreign volunteers cannot stay in Ukraine:
- Many foreigners have exceeded the time limit for staying in Ukraine, and they cannot performany legal action. In this case, the foreigner must leave the country for a certain period, after which he can return. However, the law also states that in such cases, the State Migration Service can either fine such a person, or forcibly deport him. Also, when leaving the Border Service has the right to prohibit such a citizen to enter the territory of Ukraine for the period of five years - such precedents have occurred during the Maidan.
- Some foreign volunteers has lost documents during the fighting, in some people the validity of the national passport will soon be over, and it can be restored only on its territory. In the case of a citizen of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation, it might end with the arrest and subsequent imprisonment. Embassy of the country also would not be helpful in this case, because embassy building is considered to be the territory of another state, and the foreigner, who participated in ATO, might be arrested during his visit to the embassy.
- Some foreigners had already lived in the Ukraine before the war with Russia, and had a legitimate reason in the general procedure to apply for citizenship (legal residence in Ukraine for 5 years, the spouse is a citizen of Ukraine, the children are citizens of Ukraine, the foreigner or his parents had been residing on the territory of Ukraine until 1991, born in Ukraine, etc.), but at the moment they cannot legally apply for citizenship. This is due to the fact that they need a certificate that they had not committed crimes against humanity; this document is issued only in the homeland. These people usually already have a permanent residence permit, but it cannot help, because sooner or later the residence permit also becomes void.
The only way to legally stay in the territory of Ukraine for foreigner is only to apply for refugee status. In fact, however, this option is also impossible: according to UN requirements, the person who took part in the fighting, cannot be considered a refugee. International law says that a combatant can be recognized as a refugee only in exceptional cases, when it is fully proved that he "repented that he fought, killed people, he is very embarrassed by the whole thing and he will never take the weapons". Let us look at the statistics, for example, for the first 9 months of 2015: Migration service took 688 decisions, 99% of applicants were rejected.