Kremlin denounces Ukraine’s call for travel ban on Russians


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RIGA, Latvia — The Kremlin on Tuesday condemned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call to ban all Russian travelers from traveling to Western countries to prevent Russia from annexing more Ukrainian territory.

“The only possible attitude we can have is extremely negative,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, after Zelensky told the Washington Post that all Russians, including tourists, chefs business, students and others should be denied visas to travel to the West. .

Zelensky said “the most important sanctions are closing the borders – because the Russians are taking someone else’s land.” Russians should “live in their own world until they change their philosophy”, he added.

Finland, Estonia and Latvia either expressed concern about Russian tourists traveling to Europe during Russia’s brutal war or stopped issuing visas. Leaders of European Union countries are expected to discuss the issue later this month, raising the prospect of a sanction that would hurt members of Russia’s middle class, who like to vacation in France, Italy and Russia. Spain and send their children to the top. universities abroad.

Peskov said such ideas “stink” and any attempt to isolate Russia or the Russians had no chance of success.

“In fact, it is a statement that speaks for itself. Of course, most likely, their irrational thinking went overboard in this case,” Peskov said. He reiterated the Kremlin line on sanctions – that they hurt Western countries, especially Europe, more than Russia, as Russia seeks to widen the cracks between the United States and Europe over the penalties.

“Zelensky needs to understand that European countries, which…tried to punish Russia…started to pay the price,” Peskov said. “Countries and their citizens are paying the price. Sooner or later, these countries will wonder if Zelensky is doing everything right, considering that their citizens have to pay for his whims.

Some countries have already stopped issuing visas to Russians or required arriving Russians to sign statements opposing President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Latvia announced last week that it was indefinitely stop issuing visas to Russians and forcing Russian travelers entering the country on existing visas to sign declarations opposing war on Ukraine.

Kaja Kallas, Estonian Prime Minister called Tuesday for European countries to ban Russian tourists.

“Stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. Visiting #Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” she said in a tweet, adding, “It’s time to end tourism from Russia now.” Kallas said that Russia’s bordering countries bore the brunt of Russian visa applications, with Russians traveling overland to those countries before flying to other destinations because the European Union closed its airspace to Russian planes after the invasion of Ukraine.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Monday that Russian tourists should not be able to travel to Europe for vacation. She said she expects the issue to be discussed by leaders of EU countries later this month.

“It is not fair that at the same time that Russia is waging an aggressive and brutal war of aggression in Europe, Russians can lead a normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists. It’s not right,” she told Finnish national public broadcaster Yle.

According to the Finnish Foreign Ministry, many Russians use the country as a transit point to travel to other destinations, with Russian border crossings increasing by 30% since last month, when coronavirus-related travel restrictions between both countries have been lifted.

In southern Ukraine, meanwhile, Russian proxies appointed to lead the occupied regions continue to press ahead with plans for referendums as early as next month on Russian integration.

The Russian appointees have said they could hold annexation votes next month in occupied parts of eastern and southern Ukraine – in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions – in a bid to legitimize the Russian occupation of the areas. The plans are a replay of Russia’s playbook in 2014, when referendums were held in Crimea and two self-declared breakaway “republics” in eastern Ukraine. The votes were not accepted by the international community, but Russia used them to consolidate its hold on the regions, subsequently annexing Crimea and, just before the February 24 invasion, recognizing the two pro- Moscow as independents.

The Kremlin’s main dilemma in moving the referendums forward, analysts say, is that they would lack legitimacy if there was overt voter fraud and intimidation. And Putin is seen as unlikely to be happy with less than around 90% of voters approving Russian annexation.

But Russia’s state-run Tass news agency reported on Monday that voting in Zaporizhzhia could take place online, stoking fresh alarm that the vote could be manipulated. Russia used online voting in the 2021 election, a system that opposition candidates have condemned, saying it was used to tamper with results and defeat opposition members.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and senior White House officials have warned that any attempt to grab land through “mock” referenda will result in “additional costs being imposed on Russia.”

In addition to its referendum plans, Moscow is taking other steps to integrate occupied Ukrainian regions into Russia, with frequent visits by senior officials. Among them is Sergei Kiriyenko, the first deputy head of the presidential administration, who is leading the integration effort.

Moscow also sends hundreds of Russian teachers to Ukraine to implement the Russian curriculum, including its vision of Ukrainian history. It broadcasts Russian state propaganda about its “denazification” of the country and issues Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens.

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