On 8 December 2022, the European Council has adopted a resolution on not accepting Russian travel documents issued in Ukraine and Georgia.

I'm wondering if the Frontex (European Border and Coast Guard Agency) or other EU security services can differentiate these "passports" from legitimate ones issued on the territories which are currently recognized as belonging to the Russian Federation.

From the common knowledge, travel documents have Issuer (Passport Authority) field. However, nothing prevents a perpetrator from issuing a travel document elsewhere deep on Russian territory.
Or even use a specially crafted Passport Authority #777001, like they did for Salisbury Novichok terrorists in the past.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but according to what I read in Ukrainian news, there is no evidence to assume that the russians have established Passport Authorities in Ukraine or Georgia, at least publicly — for obvious reasons.

Note: There are two kinds of documents both called "passport" on Russia — one as a proof of citizenship and another one, "international passport", which is intended for traveling abroad. They widely spread the "citizenship passports" while I'm talking about the "travel passports", of course.

  • 2
    Re: Passport Authorities in Ukraine or Georgia: there are some in Crimea, with region codes 91 and 92 (first two digits of "ФМС" issuing authority, like 77 is for Moscow City), and a quick internet search in Russian brings up stories of people getting visa refusals due to this.
    – aland
    Dec 10, 2022 at 21:30

5 Answers 5

It does not matter.

While I am not privy to the technical details of passport processing, my guess is that the answer to your stated question is 'NO'. After all, we are not talking about counterfeits where some missing security features could be used to tell them apart, they are identical in every aspect to 'valid' Russian passports.

So unless Russia decides to publicly inform border agents of where the passport was issued, they won't be able to tell.

Which is the whole point, since the objective is this measure is for the EU to avoid recognizing, even in the slightest, Russian sovereignty over Ukrainian occupied territories. So, if you come with some paper from the Russian department of Kherson, the EU answer is "this document is not valid because of a factual error, Kherson belongs to Ukraine."

Russia uses the issuing of passports as a sign of sovereignty, the EU confronts that.

So if Russia hides the origin of the passport it is no longer making a claim of sovereignty, and the EU has nothing to fight against.

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    It’s also an easy gesture that costs almost nothing. The point is to make a statement, not to do something useful. Dec 10, 2022 at 15:32
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    @JonathanReez So if it's not useful they should stop doing it?
    – Andy
    Dec 10, 2022 at 20:59
  • @Andy in an ideal world yes. Dec 10, 2022 at 21:19
  • @Andy - It's useful, just not for traveling into the EU
    – Valorum
    Dec 11, 2022 at 16:42
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    @Andy: Something like 85% of international politics is useless gesturing.
    – Kevin
    Dec 12, 2022 at 0:38

Many passports, including Russian ones, contain a field for the issuing authority. For Russia, this is an alphanumeric code. Russia could of course tamper with this, shuffle numbers, but that would complicate things for Russian authorities as well.

If Russia does decide to truly shuffle things, they will not be able to detect it.

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    This basically reiterates what is said in the question. What I'd really like to know is whether the Frontex is able to detect such tampering. Dec 10, 2022 at 6:14
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    @BeBraveBeLikeUkraine, I have this unfortunate habit of leaving the obvious second option unsaid after dismissing the first one. Added a sentence.
    – o.m.
    Dec 10, 2022 at 6:22
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    It wouldn’t complicate anything for the Russian government. They could have a secret field in their database that reveals the true issuing authority for any passport. Dec 10, 2022 at 21:19
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    In Russia, you can issue a passport anywhere. In regions other than of your residence, it just takes a slightly longer wait. Russian citizens from Abkhazia may just issue it in Sochi
    – alamar
    Dec 11, 2022 at 9:17

If it is not seen obviously from the passport, the visa application can always include field "place where the passport has been issued", demanding to provide the name, address and phone number of the institution. Some people may lie, but certain minimal checks are still possible (is the address real? not too many passports from a single address? how does this match the place of living? when has the passport been issued? are the numbers in expected ranges?) and counterfeiting the official document, visa application, is still enough stress not to do for the simple tourist journey.

  • I think this is the right answer, as Russian citizens need a visa, and there can be many checks other than the content of the passport, there is evidence of Russians with invalid passports (issues outside of internationally recognized territory of Russia) of being rejected Schengen or National visas. And of course EU countries implementing this will not tell you how they detect invalid passports.
    – Dr. Snoopy
    Dec 12, 2022 at 10:01
  • Yes, the main practical aspect will be on things like visa applications where they can ask holders for details, perform analysis of their responses and if necessary further checks (if a passport was recently issued in a place known to have issued passports to people from Russian-controlled Ukraine, they will investigate). British authorities often conduct face-to-face interviews for some classes of visa. It will provide an immediate reason for refusing a visa application and most western countries have been making it much harder for Russian passport holders to enter without a visa.
    – Stuart F
    Dec 12, 2022 at 10:03

They can also tell by the residency of the holder

Note that the European council decision reads

Russian travel documents issued in, or to persons resident in, Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine or breakaway territories in Georgia

In case Russia should forge/misrepresent not only the issuing authority, but also the address of the passport holder, it would not matter where the passport is physically produced, as the accepted answer reasons.


EU does not have to issue visas, or admit, any Russian citizens.

EU may just have a policy of not letting any Russians without prior residence history in EU to enter EU. In fact, some of EU countries already do this, such as Baltic states. Newly accepted Russian citizens have no such history on their Russian passports so they will not be admitted.

This may in fact punish the wrong people. For Ukrainians stranded on territories held by Russia, the easiest way out may be getting a Russian passport, going to 3rd party country such as Georgia or Turkey, restoring their Ukrainian documents at the embassy once they are there, and throwing away unneeded Russian passport. But it will not work if they are not allowed in those 3rd countries (most likely, they will also not be let in EU by land border).

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    This does not answer the question.
    – MSalters
    Dec 11, 2022 at 13:01

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