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Lithuania takes step toward reforms to strip citizenship after Cyprus Confidential revelations

An ICIJ media partner found two of oligarch Roman Abramovich’s children held Lithuanian passports when his financial affairs were rapidly reorganized ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lithuanian authorities have drafted legal amendments that would allow the country to strip people of citizenship over national security concerns, spurred in part by revelations that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s children used Lithuanian passports in an apparent bid to shield family assets from Western sanctions.

ICIJ media partner Siena reported in December 2023 that two of Abramovich’s children held Lithuanian passports when they were given control of some of the family’s fortune as part of a rapid reorganization of Abramovich’s financial affairs ahead of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The details were contained in the set of leaked files that were at the heart of the Cyprus Confidential investigation. Lithuanian authorities were quick to respond at the time, immediately pledging to review citizenship laws.

Last week, the Lithuanian Ministry of Interior Affairs announced on its website that newly-drafted legalamendments would apply to anyone who holds dual citizenship, enabling authorities to revoke Lithuanian citizenship from those who “publicly support a foreign state that threatens the security interests of Lithuania and other European Union states and their allies.”

A spokesman for the ministry confirmed to Siena that the proposed changes to the law were in part brought in response to the Cyprus Confidential revelations.

“There was an initiative to change the citizenship law of the Republic of Lithuania earlier, but the case of R. Abramovičius is also related to these amendments,” the ministry’s head of strategic communication, Mindaugas Bajarūnas, told Siena.

There was nothing illegal about the 2022 transfer of Abramovich’s assets, political scientist Vytis Jurkonis told Siena in December. But, given the timing, the use of Lithuanian identity documents in the transfer should have raised red flags for Lithuanian officials, the expert said. Lithuania has remained a firm ally of Ukraine during the ongoing war with Russia.

Lithuania currently grants citizenship to descendants of people who held it before Russia occupied the country in 1940, which includes members of the Abramovich family. But as Jurkonis told Siena: “The citizenship of the children of such an oligarch should have been on the radar of several institutions.”

The proposed citizenship law amendments will require parliamentary approval to take effect.

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