President Zelensky has recently urged western countries to completely ban Russian citizens and to stop issuing visas for them, saying that harsher sanctions need to be implemented for Putin to stop his war. Last week, some neighbouring countries have expressed inconvenience over Russian tourists.
After Zelensky’s interview, Estonia, Finland and Latvia came forward, fully supporting a ban on Russian tourists and asking the other EU Member States to stop issuing tourist visas. Since Russian planes are not allowed into European airspace, it is the western bloc that receives most of the tourist. Even if they do not give the permits themselves, Schengen rules allow the Russians to travel to any country with any visa.
Although Finland is currently the only EU member bordering Russia that still issues tourist visas for its neighbour’s citizens, Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin has said earlier this week that it is “not right” for Russians to go about their normal lives, enjoying holidays in Europe, while “Russia is waging an aggressive, brutal war in Europe”.
Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas has also been vehement about banning Russians, saying that, under the circumstances, “Visiting #Europe is a privilege, not a human right”. The country has stopped issuing any permits for Russian citizens and the Minister of Foreign affairs said the entire EU should apply similar restrictions.
“Maybe a citizen does not participate in decisions and acts of war and does not agree with the Putin regime, but it is clear that he is a citizen of the country that is waging a genocidal war in Ukraine”, he added.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs also agrees with the ban, calling on EU Members to stop issuing visas for Russian citizens in an interview with Politico. He did however admit that for humanitarian reasons exceptions should be made.
At the same time, it is important to allow family members, journalists and activists to escape the country. Currently, spealing out against the war it punishable by up to 15 years in jail, reports the Brussels Times. Press freedom is no longer a certainty in Russia and while their own journalists are imprisoned, the foreign correspondents are simply being deported.