VILNIUS – Garry Kasparov, a leading Russian opposition activist, has called on the European Union to stop issuing visas to Russian tourists but at the same time to create a mechanism allowing indefinite entry for those who condemn Russia’s hostilities and do not support the Kremlin.
“My proposals are very clear, we have discussed them during the Congress: there can be no tourism at times of war. Indeed, there was no tourism from Berlin to London back in 1942. Hence there shall be no tourist visas. However, it is necessary to give an opportunity to those who want to destroy Putin’s Russia. The front line should be one-way only: if you cross to another side, you stay there,” he told reporters on Friday after the end of the Congress of Free Russia, which was hosted by Vilnius.
Ways to restrict the flow of tourists from Russia on a regional level were now being discussed with representatives of the Baltic countries, Poland and Finland, which had decided to pursue such measures, Kasparov said.
Specifically, he mentioned a proposal for those seeking entry into the EU to sign a declaration condemning Russia’s actions and affirming Ukraine’s sovereignty.
“A declaration stating the acknowledgment of the criminal war, illegitimacy of Putin’s regime and, of course, recognition of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Those people shall be given an opportunity to settle down in the free world,” the opposition activist said.
Such a declaration should be signed in public as this would make the person “a criminal in Putin’s Russia” who would face prosecution in his home country upon return, Kasparov explained.
“Of course, the declaration would only be the first step, it would not be a guarantee that their documents would be accepted. It’s just that those documents would not be accepted altogether without such a declaration. It is necessary to acknowledge these three conditions in public,” he added.
Kasparov stressed that the abovementioned countries were a specific “checkpoint” for Russians traveling farther to Europe, adding that he hoped that the United Kingdom could also join such a mechanism.
“As far as I understand, the conference in Prague [the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers] provided a possibility of a “regional solution”, i.e. to block tourism even if Spain or Italy issues visas – it will actually be no longer possible once Finland joins in,” he said.
The opposition activist agreed that the increased inflow of people from Russia entailed the risk of “some provocations”, which is why efforts were being made to negotiate a more specific mechanism of checks, which could be applied by officers of the said countries.
In Kasparov’s view, a ban on tourist visas would be fruitful as it would create additional problems inside Russia, in particular for the passive middle class.
“More so, it would finally explain to Russia’s middle class in Moscow and St Petersburg that it is necessary to pay for the war. It is important that they understand that the war is not just something they see on TV but it is the war they will have to pay for, too,” he added.
According to Kasparov, should the model proposed by Russian opposition activists be implemented, “there are all preconditions to expect” an increase in the flow of specialists, necessary for the functioning of Russia’s economy, who would leave Russia for the West.
“Those are IT specialists, engineers. It is also part of the plan how to make Russia’s economy bleed out,” he said.
According to him, at least half of the specialists who earlier left Russia to work in Western countries had to go back to Russia after the war broke out “just because there were no such programs”.
Kasparov stressed that, in the opposition’s view, this would also help in the future, after the war ended.
“If we expect certain developments to begin in Russia after Ukraine’s victory, it is important that those people, who are ready to fight in order to bring Russia back to the European community, could have clear conditions for the formation of their structures in Europe as early as today,” he added.
On Wednesday, EU foreign ministers agreed to suspend a 2007 visa facilitation agreement with Russia.
The measure does not mean a formal ban on tourist visas as requested by some of Russia's EU neighbors, including Lithuania.
Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Poland have said they will look at ways to impose regional bans on Russian citizens.