The war in Ukraine has led to many European countries, especially those neighbouring Russia and Belarus, not feeling as comfortable welcoming Russian tourists as they used to.
On 28 July, Estonia announced it will issuing visas or temporary residence permits to Russian citizens who want to study in the country. The authorities also specified that Russian and Belarusian citizens who have no legal right to stay in Estonia will no longer be allowed to work there, even if they have a visa issued by another EU Member State.
These are citizens of a state that is waging a genocidal war and in this case Estonia’s view is that the sanctions should affect the whole of Russian society.Urmas Reinsalu, Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Estonian 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.
While Finland is the only EU member bordering Russia to still issue tourist visas for its neighbour’s citizens, the tourists are very controversial for Finns. “Ukrainian citizens are being killed, civilians, women and children are being killed in Ukraine, and meanwhile Russian citizens are on vacation in the EU. I find this an unbearable situation”, said Finnish MP of the National Coalition party.
Ever since the war broke out, many Russians have actually fled their country, firstly to get away from the conflict, but also to show their disapproval of Putin’s invasion. Hundreds of thousands of intellectuals – engineers, computer scientists, academics, journalists, artists – have been leaving the country. French newspaper L’Obs reported in July that 100,000 professionals in the high-tech sector had already fled Russia, leaving it with a “brain drain”. “It’s a haemorrhage that massifies older trends. In the long term, this will pose major problems for Russia. The demographic issue is fundamental for this country”, analyst Nicolas Gosset explained.
Some Russians also seek refuge in Belgium, where the number of asylum applications has reached 329 in the first seven months of the year, already exceeding the 306 requests for the whole of 2021. Regarding visas, Belgium still issues permits for professionals, students, researchers and family reunifications, while any application for a stay of less than 90 days is denied. On the other hand, since Russian authorities heavily reduced the staff at the Belgian embassy in Moscow, the time it takes for applications to pe processed has increased significantly. This does not only affect Russia, but also the other six countries that the Moscow embassy covers, stressed the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs.