A working agreement on the protection of Russians in Kazakhstan and of Kazakhs in Russia was signed at a working meeting of the two governments’ human rights commissions on March 23 and 24 in Akmola. Apart from this bilateral agreement, the commissions also discussed possibly establishing a multilateral CIS body on human rights protection. (Russian Agencies, March 26) A commission with monitoring powers has long been proposed by Russia for possible use as a political lever for CIS countries. Most member countries have resisted the proposal out of concern about potential misuse of such a body for political purposes.
Bilateral Kazakhstani-Russian arrangements regarding the respective diasporas are a special case. Approximately five million ethnic Russians live in Kazakhstan. Some two million ethnic Kazakhs reside in Russia. The two countries last held high-level talks on the protection of their diasporas in 1995, which resulted in a bilateral agreement on monitoring ethnic rights. Both sides have complained, however, that this agreement has not been implemented. During his visit to Akmola, the head of Russia’s Commission for the Protection of Human Rights, Vladimir Kartashkin, claimed that, in the interests of harmonious bilateral relations, Russia has often chosen not to "parade" the "many complaints" of ethnic "discrimination" received by the commission from Russians living in Kazakhstan. (Panorama [Almaty], March 27)
The most notable of Russia’s proposals rejected by Kazakhstan is dual citizenship. Almaty ruled it out on the grounds that it would breed dual loyalty among the 32 percent of its population that is ethnic Russian. Kazakhstan’s counterproposal is the "Simple Exchange Agreement," which would allow citizens of either country to acquire citizenship of the other through a simplified registration procedure, which takes only three months to complete. Signed by the two governments in 1995, the agreement has yet to be ratified by Russia’s Duma.
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