Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pushing one. “Let them live in their own world until they change their philosophy,” he said in a speech. Washington Post interview This month. “This is the only way to influence Putin.”
Zelenskiy is supported by EU countries that border Russia — the Baltic states and Finland — as well as Poland and the Czech Republic.
Estonian Prime Minister Kayakaras said in an email in response to a Post inquiry that the travel ban was “another way to send our message to the Russian people that the Kremlin must stop its genocidal war against the Ukrainian people”. “Once their own privileges are cut and well-being is affected, people change their mindset.”
But other EU member states, notably Germany and France, strongly oppose the idea.They say it’s unfair and unwise to punish all Russians German Chancellor Olaf Schulz calls “Putin’s war.” Visa restrictions, they argue, could reduce the number of escape routes for critics and could confine people to Kremlin echo chambers to exploit narratives of Western persecution.
“In the eyes of Russian citizens who may not support the regime or the war, you risk making the EU the bad guy,” said one EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. Prague Conference.
Wednesday’s meeting is unlikely to resolve who should be allowed access and under what conditions. Another EU diplomat familiar with the debate said it would be an informal start of “discussions” rather than a final decision on what, if any, happens next.
a potential The compromise was a blanket suspension of the 2007 visa facilitation agreement with Russia, which would make it more difficult and expensive for Russian citizens to obtain tourist visas, According to the diplomat.
Although Zelensky suggested in an interview with The Washington Post that travel restrictions should apply to all Russians, including expats, few seem to support the move.
Much of the discussion has focused on the short-stay visa, which allows travel in the Schengen area of 26 countries for up to 90 days. According to the data, in 2019, before the pandemic, more than 4 million of these visas were issued in Russia. EU data.
Member States are discussing how to open doors to human rights activists and dissidents, and whether and how to create immunities for groups such as family members, students and scientists.
Since the Russian invasion, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have stopped issuing most short-stay visas to Russian citizens.Estonia also took ineffective action Previously issued short-stay visawhile Latvia requires Russian travelers with existing visas to sign a statement against war with Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Finland announced it would reduce the number of visas issued to Russians by 90 percent starting Thursday.
“It’s not right that Russians can live a normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists while Russia is waging an aggressive, brutal war of aggression in Europe. It’s not right,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin told the Finnish Public Broadcasting Corporation.
Europeans are boiling over in the news this summer Russian plated luxury cars at Helsinki airport. With a broad ban on Russian flights in effect, Russians wanting to vacation in Europe have to drive to and take off from neighboring countries.
But Finland and the Baltic states say they can only do much on their own to limit Russian tourism and avoid being abused as a transit route. Officials complained that many Russian tourists showed up on short-term visas issued by other Schengen countries.
“We must say a clear ‘no’ to the shameless Russian hitchhikers on the border,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabriel Landsbergis wrote. In a review article by Politico Call for ‘visa solidarity’ within EU
Like other advocates of curbing Russian tourism, he suggested that visas should still be offered on humanitarian grounds — “leaving Europe’s doors open to democratic activists in Russia and Belarus and those persecuted by dictatorships”.
Other leaders and officials said the idea of targeting ordinary Russians to punish Putin was wrong.
Some have questioned whether banning Russian tourists would actually prompt ordinary Russians to oppose the war, let alone the government.
Russian-American journalist and author Anna Arutunyan Opinion article in the Moscow Times.
“There is no historical evidence that closed borders motivate people to push for democratic change,” she continued. “There is only evidence to the contrary.”
In a discussion paper circulated ahead of the Prague meeting, France and Germany opposed the blanket ban, arguing that first-hand experience of life in a democracy could have “transformative power” for Russians, German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.
“Our visa policy should reflect this and continue to allow human-to-human contact in the EU with Russian nationals not affiliated with the Russian government,” the document said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that the EU visa debate was “completely unjustified”.
“These are very serious decisions that could be made against our citizens,” he said, “and cannot be ignored.”
Kate Brady in Berlin and Mary Ilyushina in Riga, Latvia contributed to this report.