President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in an interview with The Washington Post said that Western sanctions against Russia are weak. And it would be more effective to close the borders of European states and the United States for Russians for a year and a complete embargo on the purchase of Russian energy resources. His statement that the citizens of the Russian Federation should return to Russia is being vigorously discussed in social networks.
“Whatever the Russians … let them go to Russia. Then they will understand. They will say: “This [война] has nothing to do with us. The whole population cannot be held responsible, can they?” Maybe. The population chose this government and does not fight with it, does not argue with it, does not shout at it. Don’t you need this isolation? You are telling the whole world that it must live according to your rules. Then go and live there. This is the only way to influence Putin,” the President of Ukraine told an American publication.
The Kremlin responded to Zelensky’s call. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, in a comment to Russian state media, threatened countries that already restrict Russians or are about to do so: “Any attempts to isolate Russians, isolate Russia is a process that has no prospects. Europe, who are trying to punish Russia, as they say, they are already actively paying the bills. And the countries themselves are paying the bills, and the citizens are paying the bills. Sooner or later, these countries will also begin to wonder if Zelensky is doing everything right, that our citizens must pay for his whims.”
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, many European countries have already introduced or are going to introduce restrictions on the entry and stay of Russian citizens on their territory, and we are talking about both residence permits, work and study visas, and tourist ones. “Time to end tourism from Russia right now,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted on August 9. The politician believes that “visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right.”
Tallinn has not been issuing tourist visas to Russians and Belarusians since spring. And at the end of July, the Estonian government banned the provision of temporary residence permits and study visas to citizens of these countries. Estonian media write about Russian students who cannot renew their visas and are forced to return to their homeland without completing their education. The Union of Student Representatives asked for an exception for those Russians who are already studying, but Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said that in this case, the sanctions would lose their meaning. According to the minister, the cases of students from Belarus will be considered separately and they still have the opportunity to obtain a student visa and a residence permit.
On August 5, the Latvian embassy in Russia stopped issuing any visas to Russians. The only exception is the funeral of close relatives. The website of the consulate says that such a decision was made “in connection with the international situation.” In fact, Latvia stopped issuing visas to Russians on the day the war began, February 24th. But there were many exceptions. For example, they let Russian independent journalists fleeing censorship, or those who feared criminal prosecution for their political views. Latvian Radio reports that by the beginning of August, Latvia had issued 247 visas to Russian journalists and 206 more members of their families. In total, 23 media moved to Latvia. Now Russians can only get a visa for a funeral.
“The State Security Service has been informed about the work of Russian independent media in Latvia. We can also note that in this regard, the service has identified risks for the security of the Latvian information space, as well as intelligence risks associated with the fact that the activities of the media have traditionally been in the interests of the Russian special services. About everything about this, the security service informed the top leadership of the country,” the State Security Service of Latvia circulated such a comment.
Restrictions for Russians were also introduced by the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania and Poland. They only extend or issue new visas to family members or under other, very limited conditions. Some Czech universities have begun to impose restrictions on students and applicants from Russia and Belarus. Now citizens of these countries may not be admitted to professions recognized as critical, for example, in the field of IT technologies, and current students in such areas are offered to complete their studies. Citizens of Belarus are limited in obtaining Czech, Estonian and Latvian visas. But unlike the Russians, for example, they have access to humanitarian visas in Poland.
Poland and Finland advocated for Russians to stop issuing tourist visas at the pan-European level. And Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said on August 3 that Tallinn would submit such a proposal to the EU for consideration within the next week.
However, on July 28, the European Commission responded to a request from one of the Finnish newspapers that the visa rules of the European Union do not allow to completely stop issuing visas to citizens of a particular country.
Correspondents of Present Time on the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Syktyvkar asked passers-by how they feel about the new visa restrictions for Russian citizens. Judging by the answers, the majority does not understand why the Russians in the EU are not particularly welcome now.