Czechs push for EU-wide ban on Russian travelers

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Czechs push for EU-wide ban on Russian travelers

The Czech Republic will push for a blanket ban on Russian travelers to the European Union.

The Czech government will push for an EU-wide ban on Russian travelers during a ministerial summit in late August, according to Jan Lipavsky, the country's foreign minister.

The proposal is intended to add to the list of sanctions imposed on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine.

Lipavsky told Politico on Thursday that the government that halting visas for ordinary Russian citizens gives a clear and straightforward signal to Russian society. He said Russians should realize that such a militant policy has consequences. The measure will be proposed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on August 31 in Prague.

Lipavsky said we are trying to explain to our partners that the approach is justified and effective. He also argued that a visa ban could reduce the influence of the Russian secret service in the EU. Since Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in late February, the European bloc has been imposing sanctions and reducing ties with Moscow. After the hostilities began, Prague stopped accepting visa applications from Russian citizens.

Latvia stopped issuing visas to almost all Russians earlier this month, citing security concerns. On Thursday Estonia said it would do the same, as well as banning Russian citizens who hold Estonian visas from entering the country from August 18.

Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas urged EU member states to stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. She stated that visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right.

Berlin opposes a full ban on issuing visas to Russians. The German Foreign Ministry made a statement on Thursday to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, saying it was important that the contact with the civil society, especially its part, is open to the EU and critical of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed skepticism about a blanket ban, citing the far-reaching sanctions imposed on Russia and saying that a visa ban would weaken their effectiveness if it was directed against everyone, including innocent people. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba backed the banning of Russians from entering the EU. He wrote on Twitter that Russian tourists should enjoy Russia.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the calls to ban all Russians from traveling to the EU were signs of flagrant nationalism and xenophobia.

There is a belief that common sense will take action over time, and those making such statements will come to their senses, according to Dmity Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman.