Moldova can't cope with increase in citizenship requests from Russians

By Alexander Tanas

CHISINAU (Reuters) - Authorities in ex-Soviet Moldova said on Monday they were having difficulty coping with a steep increase in applications to grant citizenship to nationals of wartime Russia.

"In view of a surge in requests for Moldovan citizenship, the agency is asking the government to extend the time limit for examining applications to six months," instead of the current term of 20 days, said a government agency which, among other things, deals with citizenship and passports.

"The geopolitical situation in the region created by Russia's war against Ukraine has generated an increase in the number of persons seeking to acquire Moldovan citizenship."

The agency said 70 percent of applicants were Russian nationals and 20 percent Ukrainians, without providing specific figures for the numbers seeking citizenship of Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries.

Moldova's pro-European government has denounced Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, its neighbour to the east. Parts of Russian missiles apparently targeting Ukraine have landed on its territory.

Before independence, Moldova had been part of the Russian empire, the Soviet Union or greater Romania for some 150 years.

Its Soviet-era population of 4.3 million has shrunk to about 2.5 million -- not counting the enclave of Transdniestria run by pro-Russian separatists -- as about a million of its citizens have left in search of a better life.

Post-Soviet Moldova has developed close ties with European Union member Romania to the west on the basis of a shared Romanian language and history.

In addition, Moldovan nationals who can prove their ancestors lived on the territory of the Greater Romanian state before part of it was subsumed by the Soviet Union in 1940 are entitled to seek Romanian, and therefore EU, citizenship.

(Reporting by Alexander Tanas; Editing by Ronald Popeski and Jonathan Oatis)