Russians are racing to try to get hold of European visas as some nations impose journey restrictions and fears develop that the European Union might ban Russian vacationers from the bloc in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The variety of functions for Schengen visas — which give entry to most EU nations — submitted by Russians has risen quickly in current weeks, in accordance with tour companies contacted by The Moscow Occasions.
“I don’t consider the EU will cease issuing all visas to Russians. Nevertheless, I’ll really feel extra comfy with a Schengen visa, even when I am not going wherever proper now,” stated one Moscow resident who utilized for an EU visa after the beginning of the ban discussions.
The concept of a European ban on Russian vacationers has brought on heated debate since Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky backed it earlier this month, with supporters saying Russians should be held accountable for his or her authorities’s actions and opponents questioning the validity of coverage making primarily based on the thought of collective duty.
Finland stated Tuesday it would scale back the variety of visas issued to Russians by 90% beginning subsequent month and Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have lately additionally introduced restrictions on vacationer visas for Russians.
The three Baltic states and Finland, which share land borders with Russia, have reported a rise within the numbers of Russians utilizing their airports to transit additional into the EU as a workaround to the bloc’s ban on Russian airways.
The Czech Republic, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, stated final week that it helps the thought of an EU-wide ban on vacationer visas for Russians.
“My shut mates reside in Europe now and so they can’t return to Russia for numerous causes, together with political ones. I need to go to them quickly,” the Moscow resident, who requested anonymity to talk freely, advised The Moscow Occasions.
She stated she had paid a tour company about 25,000 rubles ($409) for her Schengen visa software and anticipated to gather the visa later this mon
Worries about doable EU restrictions imply that the variety of Schengen visa functions made by Russians has doubled within the final two weeks, Maya Lomidze, the top of the Russian Tour Operators Affiliation, advised The Moscow Occasions.
Tatiana, a Russian citizen who moved to the EU a number of years in the past, stated she requested members of the family in Russia to use for Schengen visas as quickly because the journey ban dialogue started.
“This case seems to be very scary — I reside in Europe and my relations reside in Russia. What if the borders are closed and my mom won’t be able to go to me?” Tatiana, who declined to provide her surname, advised The Moscow Occasions.
Russian tour company Aero Membership Tour, which helps shoppers get hold of international visas, has noticed an increase in Schengen visa functions since June, in accordance with Alina Protsenko, the top of the corporate’s visa help division.
Even with out an outright ban, the method of making use of for European visas is already extra difficult for Russians than it was earlier than the battle in Ukraine, in accordance with specialists.
“The principle downside is discovering a slot for an embassy visa appointment,” Protsenko advised The Moscow Occasions, including that the longer-than-normal ready occasions had been the results of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions which have left European embassies in Russia short-staffed.
However the software course of has additionally apparently been tightened.
“Paperwork, airplane tickets and reserving confirmations are topic to extra thorough scrutiny and in some instances, a visa software could also be denied,” Protsenko stated.
As well as, various nations, together with Switzerland, Hungary and Austria, have apparently began issuing Schengen visas solely throughout a visit.
“Sadly, the occasions after we might apply for a three-day journey [to Europe] and an embassy gave a Schengen visa for 3 or 5 years have handed,” Protsenko stated.
Russians — of whom about 40 million have international passports — had been issued about 4 million Schengen visas in 2019 earlier than the coronavirus pandemic, in accordance with EU knowledge.
Arguing for Europe to dam entry to Russians, Zelensky stated in an interview earlier this month that Russians ought to “reside in their very own world till they modify their philosophy.”
However critics of a visa ban warn that it might have an effect on the various Russians who oppose the battle, together with opposition activists and journalists who’ve been pressured to flee by draconian censorship legal guidelines and fears of political persecution.
Final week, Russian journalist Yaroslav Varenik stated he was denied entry to Estonia and border guards canceled his vacationer visa after a two-hour interrogation.
For the second, Russians can nonetheless enter Europe if they’ve a Schengen visa, since a Schengen visa issued by anybody nation permits entry to all the bloc.
An EU-wide vacationer visa ban for Russian residents is ready to be mentioned on the casual EU international ministers assembly later this month.
“I don’t assume it [a visa ban] will occur,” stated Tatiana, the Russian citizen residing within the EU. “However I’m apprehensive that one can blame a complete nation for what its authorities does.”