Saeima awards Latvian citizenship to promising Ukrainian athlete

The Saeima on February 15 decided to grant Latvian citizenship to young Ukrainian athlete Yeva Bilokrynytska.  

The Saeima Committee for Citizenship, Migration and Social Cohesion asked for a draft law to be considered on the matter. In accompanying notes, it is pointed out that in 2021 and 2022 she represented Latvia in international junior competitions and was in fact Latvian junior champion. However, from 2023 it has no longer been possible for her to represent Latvia internationally, because according to the rules, only persons who have Latvian citizenship can do so.

The athlete "connects her future with Latvia and wants to represent Latvia at the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and other competitions," says the text. Her bid for citizenship is supported by the Latvian Equestrian Federation. She will retain her Ukrainian citizenship alongside her new Latvian citizenship and her new Latvian name – Jeva Bilokrinicka.

The whole process of her citizenship application was conducted a rapid speed with the input of the committee plus two readings of the relevant bill all carried out on Thursday. The decisive vote was carried by 78 votes to 0.

Bilokrynytska, born in 2008,  is a young equestrian who is listed as representing Ukraine, according to the sport's governing body, which also records she has 9 wins from 79 competitions.

Granting citizenship to promising young sportspeople is not unprecedented. Back in 2018, the Saeima supported giving Latvian citizenship to another promising young Ukrainian athlete, Oleksandr Pinchuk, and a year later we had this interesting roundup of Latvia's "foreign legion" of sports stars.

Though gaining Latvian citizenship is usually a matter requiring long-term residence, the passing of a language exam and a few other conditions, the Saeima has the ability to bestow citizenship on individuals deemed to have performed or be likely to perform services of "special merit" to the country. In the past these have included businessmen, musicians and perhaps the highest-profile recent example was dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was born in Riga and was granted citizenship by Saeima in 2017. 

Congratulations to Jeva!

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