Ukraine’s President called on the West to impose a blanket travel ban on Russians, an idea that has found support among some European states but angered Moscow which pressed on with a fierce military offensive in eastern Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s idea looked likely to divide the EU, where differences on how to deal with Moscow have long persisted between some eastern and western members. It came as Ukraine halted flows of Russian oil to some eastern European countries due to a sanctions-related payment issue.
Zelensky’s call for a oneyear travel ban and the apparent expulsion of Russians living in the West so that they could live “in their own world until they change their philosophy” was made in an interview with the Washington Post. He complained that sanctions imposed so far on Russia to punish it for invading his country on February 24 were too weak. “Whichever kind of Russian … make them go to Russia,” Zelensky was quoted as saying. “They’ll understand then. “They’ll say, ‘This (war) has nothing to do with us. The whole population can’t be held responsible, can it?’ It can.”
Zelensky was quoted as saying the ban should also extend to Russians who had fled since the start of what Moscow calls a “special military operation” because they disagreed with President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin dismissed Zelensky’s words as irrational, saying that Europe would ultimately have to decide if it wanted to pay the bills for its “whims”.  “Any attempt to isolate Russia or Russians is a process that has no prospects,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Other senior Russian officials have questioned the legality of such restrictions, suggesting they would infringe on Russians’ rights. There was support though from Kaja Kallas, Estonia’s Prime Minister, who said she thought it was time for the EU to stop issuing visas to Russians. “Visiting #Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” Kallas tweeted.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Monday that she also favoured an EUwide curb on Russian tourism and that EU leaders were likely to discuss the issue at their next summit. “It is not right that while Russia is conducting an aggressive and cruel attack in Europe, Russians can live a kind of normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists,” Marin told Finnish public broadcaster Yle. While Finland still issues Schengen visas to Russian tourists, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania no longer do. The Schengen area comprises 26 European countries among which people can travel freely without presenting passports.
Other countries which have traditionally enjoyed closer ties to Russia such as Hungary are, however, likely to oppose an EU ban. Moreover, the European Commission has questioned its feasibility, saying certain categories such as family members, journalists and dissidents should always be granted visas. Russia meanwhile unleashed ground forces, air strikes and artillery in a grinding offensive designed to complete its capture of eastern Ukraine.

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