Moscow rejects Zelenskyy’s call for travel ban on Russians

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urges Western countries to impose a blanket travel ban on Russians, as Moscow says the remarks were ‘off the charts’.

Passengers gather in front of a departures board at Moscow's Domodedovo airport - the base of Russian carrier S7 - on March 5, 2022, the day S7 Airlines cancelled all its international flights due to sanctions imposed on Russia over the country's invasion of Ukraine.
Passengers gather in front of a departures board at Moscow's Domodedovo airport [File: AFP]

Russia has said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s proposal to ban all Russians from Western countries went “off the charts” and was seen “extremely negatively” in Moscow.

The Ukrainian leader told The Washington Post newspaper that current Western sanctions against Moscow were too weak, adding the West should close its borders to Russians.

“The irrationality of thinking in this case is off the charts,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday. “Any attempt to isolate Russians or Russia is a process that has no prospects,” Peskov added.

Zelenskyy told the Post that “the most important sanctions are to close the borders – because the Russians are taking away someone else’s land”.

His remarks stand in stark contrast to the first days of Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine when Zelenskyy used to reach out to Russia-based Kremlin critics, in Russian.

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev called Zelenskky “the greatest Ukrainian clown” on Twitter – and even compared him to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

‘End tourism from Russia’

Russia’s neighbour in the north, Finland last week issued a plan to limit tourist visas for Russians but also emphasised the need for a European Union-level decision on the matter.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said it was “time to end tourism from Russia.” “Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” she wrote on Twitter.

In Paris, Russian nationals can no longer visit the Chateau de Vincennes, an important tourist attraction.

Access to Russians has been restricted after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine in late February, the French defence ministry told the AFP news agency.

Asked to comment on the proposed and actual restrictions for Russian citizens in Europe, Peskov alluded to events seen in the run-up to and during World War II.

“In their unfriendliness, many of these countries slip into forgetfulness,” he said. “And they resort to statements that we heard from several European countries in the centre of Europe 80 years ago.”

Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine has killed thousands, forced millions to flee their homes and exacerbated food shortages across the world.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies