Kremlin's critics, in Vilnius, warn against blanket visa ban on Russians

  • 2022-09-01
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Russian opposition activists Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Garry Kasparov on Thursday called on the European Union not to impose a blanket visa ban that would close the bloc's doors to Russians who do not support the war in Ukraine. 

Speaking at the Congress of Free Russia in Lithuania, Khodorkovsky said that, among other things, the issue will determine the direction Russia could take after the collapse of President Vladimir Putin's regime and whether it would "enter a new circle of super-centralized enemy search dictated from above".

"This will depend to a great extent on what example the young Russian generation sees. For this example to be European, it is necessary to work with this young generation," the Kremlin's critic said.  

"This is why we reacted so sharply to statements about severing social, cultural and other ties with Russian society, named in short as 'the visa problem'," he said. 

"Yes, when there is a war, people who support an aggressor and (...) an aggressive war should not go to the victim's home. But there is a large part of Russians who do not support this war, who publicly oppose it. We need to keep in touch with these Russians. We can’t push them away, because what happens tomorrow on our common European continent depends on them."

According to Kasparov, the question to be asked before imposing new restrictions on Russia should be whether or not this helps Ukraine win the war. 

The opposition activist said that he backs a ban on tourist visas in principle, but called on the EU to make it possible for Russians who do not support the war to travel in Europe.

"Any creation of tension within the country (and), certainly, a ban on tourist visas for travel back and forth, (and) pressure is good," the opposition activist said. "But it is not right to completely refuse to cooperate with any emigrant groups, because this is also an important factor in influencing Western public opinion."

"For example, the big question is when to move from freezing Russia's assets to confiscation. Here, I think, the voice of Russian emigrants would also help Western politicians to cross that line," 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 say they will look at ways to impose regional bans on Russian citizens.