The clock has run out on Russians and Belarusians who plan to purchase Dominican citizenship. You've been banned!

The Roosevelt Skerrit government has stopped the sale of Dominican passports to citizens of the two Eastern European countries – parts of Russia are situated in North Asia – over the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine and Minsk's support for Moscow.

"In light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica is suspending the processing of all new applications from Russians and Belarussians with immediate effect," Emmanuel Nanthan, coordinator of the citizenship by investment (CIP) unit, wrote in a brief memo dated 4 March 2022 to agents who have been authorised to promote the CIP.

The decision was made to safeguard the global community and the CIP's integrity, Nanthan said in the note.

It's not immediately clear how many Russians and Belarussians hold Dominican economic citizenship as the unit does not publish the nationalities of successful applicants.

However, Nanthan told The Sun the move would have little to no effect on the programme, which has become Dominica's primary revenue earner.

"We do not see it having too much of an impact," insisted the unit boss. "Russia is not one of our large markets in any case."

Nanthan would not provide further information on the considerations that went into the decision, telling The Sun, "the note is self-explanatory."

However, Crispin Gregoire, the former ambassador to the United Nations and a foreign policy expert, concluded that the Skerrit administration had little choice but to act now to divert attention away from the possible involvement of Russian oligarchs in the Dominica programme.

According to Gregoire, the oligarchs are under pressure due to the sanctions imposed on Russia by the international community, and Dominica did not want to appear to surreptitiously violate these sanctions.

"I think it's fear of the sanctions and them being identified as being linked to certain oligarchs. I really think they're nervous. It brings undue attention to them," the former diplomat said of the administration. "They don't want to be guilty by association."

No other Caribbean country with economic citizenship programmes is known to have announced similar bans on the sale of passports to Russians or Belarussians.

It's a fact that did not escape Nicholas George, a spokesman for the opposition United Workers Party (UWP), who told The Sun that in the absence of information on what led to the decision, he was left to conclude that it was a pre-emptive move.

"The government is probably advised by its diplomatic channels that the selling of passports to the Russians or the Belarussians at this time might just conflict with their position at the United Nations – that they are asking the Russians to terminate the war," said George.

According to the opposition spokesman, the Skerrit administration could easily have found itself in a bind and it would have had difficulty wiggling its way out of it.

He suggested it would have been awkward for the government if a Russian or Belarussian had found their way to the US or anywhere in Europe flashing a Dominica passport obtained after sanctions had been imposed.

"It could be interpreted by the United States and European countries as you trying to [violate] the sanctions," argued George. "So Dominica now has a very difficult position that it finds itself. Are you for the sanctions, or are you against the sanctions? Are you going to facilitate breaching the sanctions, or are you going to facilitate maintaining them?"