United Nations

A/51/189


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

2 July 1996

ORIGINAL:
RUSSIAN


                                                        A/51/189

General Assembly
Fifty-first session
Item 113 (c) of the preliminary list*

*    A/51/50.


         HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTIONS:  HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS AND REPORTS
                  OF SPECIAL RAPPORTEURS AND REPRESENTATIVES

          Letter dated 28 June 1996 from the Permanent Representative
          of the Russian Federation to the United Nations addressed  
                           to the Secretary-General


     I have the honour to transmit herewith a memorandum from the
Russian Federation concerning the situation of the Russian-speaking
population in Estonia (see annex).

     I should be grateful if you would have the text of the memorandum
circulated as an official document of the General Assembly, under item
113 (c) of the preliminary list.


                                                (Signed) S. LAVROV


                                     ANNEX

            Memorandum from the Russian Federation on the situation
                 of the Russian-speaking population in Estonia


1.   The Russian side is once again obliged to draw the attention of
the authorities in Tallinn, its partners in the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and international
organizations to the situation of the Russian-speaking population in
Estonia.  It has to be noted, unfortunately, not only that the
situation has not changed for the better, but that, despite the
efforts made, it is tending to deteriorate.

2.   Among many other problems, the following situation is now a matter
of the utmost concern.  According to information coming from Tallinn,
on 12 July 1996 the internal identity cards of the former USSR will
cease to be valid in the territory of Estonia and the time-limit set
by the Estonian authorities for the issue of residence permits to
those who have so far been unable to obtain Estonian citizenship will
expire.  Of the 335,000 applications from persons in this category,
only 23,500 have been acted on by the authorities.  The numerous
assurances by official representatives of Estonia to the effect that
all non-citizens would receive aliens' identity cards by that date
have remained a dead letter.  Such identity cards have been issued
only to 1,500 persons.

     Thus, unless urgent and essential steps are taken by the Estonian
authorities, hundreds of thousands of permanent residents of Estonia
will find themselves, with effect from 12 July 1996, without a basic
identity document and without official residence permits; in other
words, they will, in effect, be in a legal vacuum and will be deprived
of many of the most important rights and freedoms, including the
possibility of leaving and returning to the country without hindrance. 
Nor is the situation resolved by the issue to non-citizens of a
temporary one-time exit document, which, with rare exceptions, is
recognized by nobody and which takes a great deal of time to process.

     The Russian-speaking inhabitants of territories adjoining the
Russian-Estonian State boundary in the Narva-Ivangorod sector will be
in a particularly difficult situation after 12 July, since they will
be deprived of the possibility of travelling without hindrance to work
in Russia and of visiting their relatives there.

3.   Almost two years after the signing of the bilateral agreement on
social security for pensioners of the Russian armed forces, the
Estonian side is continuing, in essence, to avoid giving effect to it. 
Out of over 17,000 applications for residence permits submitted in due
form, a favourable decision has been taken only on 5,000, and only
about 350 Russian retirees and members of their families have actually
received the documents.

     After 12 July 1996, the overwhelming majority of Russian military
pensioners and members of their families will essentially remain in
Estonia without documents attesting to the legality of their presence
in the country.

4.   The situation involving the Russian-speaking population in Estonia
is the consequence of Tallinn's policy aimed at establishing a mono-
ethnic State and thus forcing the non-Estonian population out of the
country.  A major instrument in the attainment of this objective is
the contrived slowing down of the pace of naturalization.  The
recommendations of OSCE and of United Nations bodies on the importance
of simplifying and facilitating this process are being ignored.  There
has been a trend towards increasing rigidity in the practical
application of the law.  It was only in 1995 that laws on citizenship
and language were adopted, exacerbating the situation of the Russian-
speaking population.  The new law on elections to local self-
government bodies is designed to reduce the Russian-speaking
electorate to a minimum, and creates largely insuperable barriers for
candidates of non-Estonian nationality.

5.   As a consequence of discriminatory legislation and high-handedness
among civil servants, there has been a significant increase in Estonia
in the number of applicants for Russian citizenship.  The Russian side
is doing everything in its power to ensure that some 107,000 of its
citizens in Estonia receive internationally acceptable identity
documents.  However, the 65,000 expatriate Russian passports so far
issued in Estonia will be effective only when the Estonian authorities
enter residence permits in them.

     The rights of citizens of the Russian Federation resident in
Estonia are also being restricted by all available means.  For
example, unlike the vast majority of other States which the Russian
side requested to agree to the opening of additional polling stations,
during the parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia, in
places with a high density of Russian citizens, the Estonian
authorities refused such a request.

6.   The most recent actions by the Estonian leadership confirm
Tallinn's determination to continue its policy of discrimination
against the Russian-speaking population permanently resident in
Estonia.  Tallinn is not even willing to implement its own,
essentially discriminatory, decisions.  The situation that is taking
shape is causing increasing concern in Moscow.  It must be recognized
in Tallinn that lawlessness and high-handedness directed against the
Russian-speaking population cannot fail to affect bilateral relations. 
Nor can the international community remain indifferent and silent when
human rights are once again trampled on in Estonia.  We express the
hope that our partners, the United Nations, OSCE and the Council of
Europe will exert the necessary influence on the Estonian authorities
to ensure that hundreds of thousands of permanent residents in Estonia
do not find themselves after 12 July 1996 in a still more complex and
ultimately hopeless situation.


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