(Bloomberg) -- Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich criticized Lithuania’s efforts to review its citizenship law, which allowed his children to obtain the Baltic nation’s passports.
Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said on Wednesday that her ministry is drafting an amendment that would give the government broader rights to strip people of citizenship on national security grounds.
The proposal emerged after it was reported that Abramovich, who faces European Union sanctions, allegedly passed some of his wealth to two of his children who hold Lithuanian passports just weeks before the restrictions kicked in. Lithuania is a staunch supporter of Ukraine, and has revoked dual citizenship from a person that it deemed a supporter of the Kremlin in the past.
“Mr. Abramovich’s children, as well as all other descendants of Lithuanian Jews who were persecuted, have the absolute legal right to their citizenship,” his spokeswoman said in a statement. “The fact that the Government of Lithuania failed to mention this context is misleading and shameful.”
The suggested proposal would allow Lithuania to revoke citizenship on the grounds of a threat to national security, including for those who have acquired their passports on the basis of descent. The country grants citizenship to descendants of individuals who held it before 1940.
Still, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda criticized the suggested change, and called for a review of whether sanctions were breached by Abramovich’s family. He also confirmed that the citizenships were granted in line with Lithuanian law.
“It’s not good to keep changing our laws targeting a specific case, specific individuals,” Nauseda told reporters on Thursday. “We’ve done that in the past. But if that becomes a massive practice then I don’t think our country would be following the path of the rule of law.”
Two of the billionaire’s seven children held Lithuanian citizenship when he transferred ownership of trusts to them in February and March 2022, according to Siena, a Lithuanian organization that works with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which also said there was nothing illegal about the move.
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