Following president Zelensky’s call on western countries to completely stop Russian citizens, in the hopes that keeping them isolated in the country will influence Putin’s decision over the war, some EU Members have been divided over the matter.
Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas was vehement about banning Russians, saying in a tweet 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.
Finland is also displeased with the visiting Russians, especially because most of them just take advantage of the border crossing and Schengen travel freedom to bypass the flight ban. Finland was the latest country to announce it will severely reduce the number of visas issued for Russian citizens, starting next month.
I think this is not the war of the Russian people, it is Putin’s war and we have to be very clear on that topic.Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany
Amid the discussions, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said an EU-wide travel ban is not the solutions and Russian citizens should not be punished for Putin’s war. During a press conference in Oslo, he highlighted a clear distinction between the Russian people and the people involved in and profiting from the war.
“It was an important decision of all of us that we impose sanctions on those who are responsible for the war, a lot of oligarchs and those who are financially and economically profiting from this Putin regime, and we will continue to do so”, Scholz said explaining why he is against the ban. “It is important to us to understand that there are a lot of people fleeing from Russia, because they are disagreeing with the Russian regime”, he added.
At the same conference, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said “it is not a black or white question, there are shades of grey”, at the same time asking for a coordinated approach at the EU level.