Russian lawmakers give preliminary backing to easing citizenship regulations

Russia's lower house of parliament gave preliminary approval Wednesday to Kremlin-backed legislation that would ease procedures for former Soviet citizens to acquire &to=http://english.pravda.ru/society/2002/04/25/28031.html' target=_blank>Russian citizenship.

The State Duma's 439-0 vote in the first of three readings comes amid a growing debate in Russia about the status of legal and illegal migrants.

The amendments would extend the deadline for former Soviet citizens who have been legal residents of Russia for a considerable time and who are looking to gain Russian citizenship until 2008. It also removes a June 2002 deadline for obtaining a residence permit as a required step toward citizenship.