About 3 million Russians on ‘no-fly list’ for unpaid debts – Quartz
According to the Russian news agency TASS, citing a spokesman for the Federal Penitentiary Service, about 3.4 million Russian citizens – about 5% of the total population – are currently banned from traveling abroad because they have unpaid debts.
That’s 1.1 million more people than the 2.3 million the authorities prevented from leaving the country last year on delinquent bank loans, parking tickets, utility bills, fines, taxes, child support payments and the like.
Russian law prohibits debtors of more than 30,000 rubles ($482) from leaving the country until their debts are paid off. In all, the Federal Bailiff Service, known by its Russian acronym FSSP, prevented almost 7.2 million debtors from traveling in 2019. However, debtors can travel “within 23 minutes” of settlement, FSSP chief Dmitry Aristov said at a conference last year. Previously, they had to wait 48 hours before they were allowed out again. There are a few exceptions. In 2014, the FSSP said someone with unpaid bills could travel “when, for example, a debtor or their dependents need treatment in another country.”
It is known that private debt collection agencies in Russia impose even harsher penalties on debtors than the authorities for non-payment. In 2016, a debt collector in Ulyanovsk demanding repayment of a debt of 4,000 rubles (about $53 at the time) threw a Molotov cocktail at the debtor’s apartment and burned the man’s two-year-old son over 40% of his body . The family reportedly took out the loan for medical expenses.
But debt isn’t the only thing keeping Russians from traveling. On December 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law banning officials in the country’s security services from leaving the country for five years after their retirement.
“It was always like that, more or less,” former FSB officer Jan Neumann told Quartz. “Now it’s just stricter than before.”
The law previously only banned active duty officers from travel, a rule introduced when Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Colonel Alexander Poteyev fled to the United States in 2010 and a network of sleeper agents operating in the United States and Europe, switched off. After that, Russian intelligence officers were only allowed out for medical treatment they couldn’t get at home.
In 2014, the Ukrainian revolution prompted the Kremlin to issue sweeping travel restrictions on members of the Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry, Federal Prison, Federal Drug Control Service, Attorney General’s Office, Federal Correctional Service, Federal Migration Service, and Emergency Situations Ministry, affecting about four million people.
This, former KGB officer Gennady Gudkov said in a 2018 interview with The Daily Beast, was “a sign of increasingly extreme paranoia.”
“I realize that today many countries want to recruit Russian specialists, but I’m sure no one wants to recruit a small police sergeant or a worker like one of my relatives who works in an aviation company that produces small insignificant parts,” Gudkov said. “He was recently issued a travel ban.”