Zelensky Wants West to Ban Travel by Russian Citizens

'This is the only way to influence Putin,' says Ukraine leader
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2022 2:36 PM CDT
Zelensky Pitch: Don't Let Any Russians Travel to West
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a screen at the main event of the "Stand Up for Ukraine" global campaign for pledging funds for Ukraine, at the Palace on the Water, in Warsaw, Poland, on April 9, 2022.   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

(Newser) – If Russia annexes more Ukrainian land, Western nations should ban all Russian citizens from their borders. That is the hardline position taken by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an interview with the Washington Post. Russian officials have indicated they plan to hold “annexation votes” in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions on Sept. 11. While few nations would recognize Russia’s annexation claim, it could enable the Kremlin to portray an attack on annexed territory as an attack on Russian territory, which risks drawing NATO directly into the fight. Zelensky has already said “pseudo-referendums” would ruin chances for future negotiations, a point he reiterated in a video statement to the New York Times.

Russian citizens are currently free to apply for visas to Western countries. While US officials have promised “additional costs” should Russia annex Ukrainian territory, a travel ban is viewed by many as extreme and potentially counterproductive. But Zelensky says the move would be justified. “Whichever kind of Russian … make them go to Russia,” Zelensky told the Post. “Don’t you want this isolation?” he asked, as though addressing Russians directly. “You’re telling the whole world that it must live by your rules. Then go and live there. This is the only way to influence Putin.”

As the BBC notes, some of Ukraine’s neighbors have already voiced support for the idea, including leaders in Latvia and Estonia. On Monday, Finnish PM Sanna Marin said she supports restrictions. “It’s not right that at the same time as Russia is waging an aggressive, brutal war of aggression in Europe, Russians can live a normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists,” Marin told reporters. Per the Moscow Times, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “any attempts to isolate Russians or Russia is a process that has no prospects,” while former Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev compared Zelensky to Hitler for holding “the whole population of Russia responsible” for the decisions of its leaders. (Read more Volodymyr Zelensky stories.)

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