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Moscow News
August 7, 2008
Foreigners with debts may be barred from leaving Russia
By Kirill Bessonov

The Russian Court Bailiffs' Service has barred a foreign citizen from leaving the country because of unpaid debts. While similar incidents involving Russian citizens have been reported by the media for some time, this latest case could serve as a precedent that would affect foreigners who come to Russia for work or leisure.

The case concerns Georgian citizen Elshan Eyupov, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in the Siberian town of Achinsk in 2003 for murdering a local woman. Apart from the prison term, the court ordered Eyupov to pay 300,000 rubles in compensation for emotional damages to the victim's daughter.

Recently Eyupov was released on parole and immediately moved to the central Russian city of Tver, where he wrote a letter to the Georgian consulate requesting to return to his home country. The consulate granted him permission to return.

However, while Eyupov was serving his sentence he managed to repay only 5,000 rubles - a small fraction of the required compensation. The Federal Migration Service contacted the court bailiffs asking if Eyupov could be allowed to leave Russia. The bailiffs learned that the former inmate had neither money nor property and issued a statement that the man must stay in Russia until the debt is repaid in full.

The statement will be valid for six months, and after this the limit will be either lifted or renewed if the bailiffs issue a new order.

According to Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily, the court bailiffs service has a tried and tested cooperation scheme with the Federal Border Guard Service - the lists of people who have unpaid debts are delivered to Moscow and the Federal Security Service (the agency overseeing the border guards) sends fresh lists of debtors to border posts every Thursday.

The Russian authorities started widely using the ban on leaving the country as a means to punish debtors only this year. But the subject was broadly covered by the media as it could affect a lot of people - mostly those who refused to repay traffic fines or alimony payments. However, Elshan Eyupov was the first foreign citizen to fall under this scheme.

The Moscow News addressed the Federal Migration Service for comments on how the new rules might affect the life of foreigners visiting Russia. A source in the agency's press service said that all decisions are made in the Court Bailiffs' Service and that the Federal Migration Service is not working at the border to decide who should be let in or out. The source added that his agency would become involved only if the issue was disputed in court.

The press service of the Court Bailiffs' Service was more elaborate.

A spokesperson with the agency told The Moscow News that the bailiffs were only executing court orders. She added that the citizenship of the debtor or the sum of the debt were never taken into consideration and all that matters is the court order. While she did not specify the implications, theoretically this could mean that an unpaid hotel bill or traffic fine could get anyone stranded in Russia for six months or more.