Zelensky urged countries to ban Russians from entering. EU: “Visa Code does not provide for the termination of the issuance of short-stay visas”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with The Washington Post that Western countries should ban all Russians from entering their territory and expel Russian citizens so that they "change their philosophy." This was followed by a statement about the ban on only tourist visas from the Prime Minister of Estonia, but the European Commission (EC) clarified that the EU visa code does not provide for the termination of the issuance of short-stay visas throughout the EU. Decisions on restrictions are made by each country independently, reminded the European Commission. Who else reacted to Zelensky's statement - in the review of The Insider.

“Whatever the Russians… let them go to Russia”

Before the interview with Zelensky came out, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, in an interview with YLE, proposed limiting the issuance of tourist visas to Russians in all EU countries. The Prime Minister referred to the fact that it is possible to cross the border of Finland with a visa of any country of the Schengen Agreement:

“It's not fair. It is clear that the Russians use Finland as a transit point, through us they go to other countries on vacation. We are discussing this issue in the government, and the discussion will continue.”

But Marin herself immediately explained that the country does not have its own sanctions legislation that would limit such actions on the part of Russian tourists. After that, she proposed to slow down the issuance of tourist visas, that is, in fact, to restrict entry.

Later, WP clarified in its article that some critics oppose the introduction of such restrictions, as the bans will unfairly affect the Russians who left the country due to disagreement with the government and Vladimir Putin's decision to start a war with Ukraine.

However, Zelenskiy said in an interview that differences in political views do not matter:

“Whatever the Russians… let them go to Russia. Then they will understand. They will say, “This [war] has nothing to do with us. The entire population cannot be held responsible, can it?“ Maybe. The population chose this government and does not fight it, does not argue with it, does not shout at it. Don't you need this isolation? You tell the whole world that it must live by your rules. Then go and live there. This is the only way to influence Putin.”

"Visiting Europe is a privilege"

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas did not directly comment on Zelensky's statement, but the topic of her tweet clearly correlates with the statement of the Ukrainian president. The day after the interview was released, she stated that it was necessary to stop issuing visas to all Russian tourists. Kallas did not mention other categories of Russians; her message was specifically about the issuance of tourist visas.

“Stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right. Air communication with Russia is closed. This means that while the Schengen countries issue visas, the burden is borne by Russia's neighbors - Finland, Estonia, Latvia - the only points of access. It's time to stop tourism from Russia now."

Of the Western politicians, at the time of writing, no one else reacted to Zelensky's statement. However, the official representative of the European Commission (EC), Ariana Podesta, once again confirmed that a ban on issuing visas to Russians is impossible. According to her, the European Commission is ready to consider the issue of introducing new sanctions against Russia, but does not comment on any possible restrictions on the issuance of short-term visas to Russians. The text of her statement is quoted by TASS:

“We have already adopted seven blocks of sanctions against Russia, and we are ready to consider new sanctions. However, the issue of visas is the competence of the EU countries, and we do not comment on individual proposals and future sanctions until they are adopted.”

In July, the EU already emphasized that it was impossible to ban the issuance of tourist visas to all Russians: visa rules do not allow this. So the European Commission responded to a request from the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat about whether it is possible to ban the issuance of tourist visas to all Russians. According to the commission, it should always be possible to grant visas to certain groups - family members of EU citizens, journalists and dissidents.

“The EU sanctions against Russia are aimed primarily and specifically at the Russian government and the Russian economic elite, as the goal is to prevent the Kremlin from financing an aggressive war in Ukraine... There are always groups of people who need to issue visas. These are humanitarian cases, family members of EU citizens, journalists and dissidents.”

However, at the time, the commission did not agree to say whether such a possibility was discussed in the EU, citing the confidentiality of the discussions. Decisions on applications for short-stay Schengen visas are made “on a case-by-case basis”, with country screening to determine whether an applicant could jeopardize “public order, national security or the international relations of a Member State,” the statement said.

"Return all Jews back to Nazi Germany"

Russian journalists, bloggers and oppositionists, many of whom had to leave the country, including because of the laws and censorship adopted after the start of the war, criticized Zelensky's proposal. In particular, the statements were made by Yevgeny Chichvarkin, who was included in the register of individuals-"foreign agents", journalist Ilya Varlamov, director Alexander Rodnyansky and writer Viktor Shenderovich.

Shenderovich, who left Russia, said that his departure from the country was connected with a possible criminal case, which Yevgeny Prigozhin, "Putin's cook", asked to bring against him. In addition to the fact that he was recognized as a “foreign agent” and the writer had to leave Russia, the bookstores Moskva, Biblio-Globus and Young Guard refused to sell Shenderovich’s books. In his Facebook post , he recalls that in 2014 he compared the Sochi Olympics to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and "a rake from all progressive humanity."

“For eight years, this comparison, thank God, has become commonplace, and since February 2022, only a lazy person has not added mustaches to Putin. The analogy, therefore, works. Well, let's continue it. And we will offer London and Washington to close the entrance for Thomas Mann and Lion Feuchtwanger! And at the same time deport back to Germany, closer to the Gestapo, all the anti-fascists who fled from the Third Reich. And what? They are Germans! Did they choose Hitler? So let them disentangle themselves there. ”

He also sarcastically stated that all Germans today are "on the same face", as they are part of the "German world" and "bearers of its aggressive imperial culture." Shenderovich stated that they should be "thrown out of civilized Western society", continuing to draw analogies.

Former State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev, who voted against the “annexation” of Crimea, left Russia and received Ukrainian citizenship in 2019, expressed a slightly different position. According to him, by proposing to ban visas to Russians, Ukraine and the Western world are acting in their own interests and the interests of their citizens:

“The consolidated position of the West: 1) only the overthrow of the Putin regime can end the war and return security to Europe; 2) only the Russians themselves can and should get rid of Putin. Neither the Armed Forces of Ukraine nor Biden with NATO will do this dirty work for the Russians. And the outflow of Russians abroad in the hope of “sitting out” does not contribute to the overthrow of Putin. Therefore, the borders are closed from the outside: welcome home!”

He criticized the emigrants who claim that Putin is to blame for everything and they “did not sign up” for this. Ponomarev justifies the proposal to stop issuing visas by the fact that there is a war going on: “Putin drops bombs on the heads of civilians that tear children to shreds, and the West answers you very gently that you are now also at war, go deal with your grandfather who has moved out. You won't be able to sit down."

The Kremlin's reaction

After the release of Zelensky's interview on the subject of a visa ban for Russians, the Russian Foreign Ministry, presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov, deputy head of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, as well as Russian propagandists spoke out. The Foreign Ministry called the statements of the Estonian Prime Minister "nonsense", and Peskov said that the Kremlin is extremely negative about Zelensky's call to ban all Russians from entering Europe.

“The irrationality of thinking in this case goes off scale, and the odor of such initiatives is not very good. Any attempts to isolate the Russians or Russia have no prospects, ”TASS quotes him as saying.

According to him, Zelensky must understand that European countries that are trying to "punish Russia", as well as their citizens, are actively paying the bills for this.

Medvedev, who has regularly made statements that turn into memes and jokes since the beginning of the war, drew an analogy with Adolf Hitler.

Propaganda Margarita Simonyan did not disregard the statement.

What is the real situation with visas?

Since the beginning of the war against Russia, tough sanctions have been introduced, including restrictions on visas. The Russian Foreign Ministry does not rule out the suspension of the issuance of Schengen visas to Russians amid worsening relations with Europe, but there has been no official confirmation of this.

In July, Finland 's leading parliamentary parties called for stopping the issuance of tourist visas to Russians because of the war in Ukraine. Shortly thereafter, Deputy Prime Minister Tytti Tuppurainen said that the country did not intend to stop issuing tourist Schengen visas to Russian citizens at the moment. Such a decision can only be made at the level of the European Union and the Schengen countries, the politician once again confirmed.

The Estonian Foreign Ministry announced the preparation of a proposal to the European Union to ban the issuance of Schengen visas to Russians, but the proposal has not been officially published either. A few days later, Estonia stopped issuing a temporary residence permit (permit) and visas for studying to Russian citizens. Latvia has also suspended the issuance of all visas for Russians for an indefinite period, except for those traveling to the country for the funeral of a close relative. The Embassy of Denmark in Russia has also stopped accepting applications from citizens of the Russian Federation for short-term visas and residence permits. The Czech Republic stopped issuing visas to Russians on the day the war began, February 24. In June, it became known that Russians and Belarusians will not be able to receive Czech visas and residence permits until the end of March 2023.

At the same time, the EC rules that each country takes measures independently indicate that no one will introduce a general ban on Schengen visas for Russians.

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