Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is asking EU member countries to stop issuing travel visas to Russian citizens in an apparent effort to bring more public pressure on Moscow to end its invasion of his country.
The request comes after months of travel restrictions imposed on Russians that some Ukrainian officials argue don't go far enough and are too easy circumvented.
In the first month of the war, most EU countries, the United States and Canada closed their airspace to Russia's 117 airlines. Additionally, a number of major Western airlines have suspended flights to Russia.
While the moves appeared to make travel to and from Russia seemingly impossible, Zelenskyy and other critics of the restrictions point to a number of evasions in the system and claim that the most effective sanctions should be designed to touch the lives of every Russian.
One such loophole is as simple as going to a country with no flight restrictions and taking Western airlines from there. Countries like Uzbekistan, Armenia, Moldova and Turkey, for instance, do not restrict Russian travel.
EU nations are split on the approach to Russian travel. Countries that border Russia, especially those that were part of the Soviet Union or its sphere of influence, were faster to react with more severe restrictions.
Lithuania closed its border to Russian citizens hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin's televised declaration of war on Feb. 24 as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine. Latvia followed Lithuania's example similarly shortly thereafter, but permitted short-term travel and work visas.
On Aug. 4, Latvia imposed a complete ban. Other European countries like Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Slovakia and Finland have adopted restrictions with varying degrees of severity.
Estonia has perhaps taken the most extreme stance. In addition to a total ban on travel into the country by Russian transportation, the head of the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Reinsalu, has proposed an EU-wide ban on issuing "Schengen" visas to Russians after visiting Kyiv on Aug. 4.
The Schengen area includes most European countries, and Schengen visas allow holders to freely travel to most EU countries for short periods.
"Stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. Visiting #Europe is a privilege, not a human right. Air travel from RU is shut down," tweeted Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, adding that "while Schengen countries issue visas, neighbors to Russia carry the burden."
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