Visas for Russians: The European Union helps Putin maintain his anti-Western policy | International
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The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, can be grateful to the visa restriction policy of the countries of the European Union that gives him powerful arguments to accuse the West of Russophobia.
“European leaders have fed me up with their Russophobic cackling about Schengen visas for citizens of our country,” the deputy head of the Security Council, Dmitri Medvedev, wrote on social media, calling on European leaders “to hurry up declare the total prohibition to issue them”. “At last, everyone will definitely be convinced about Europe’s attitude towards the citizens of Russia,” he added.
On August 31, the EU foreign ministers meeting in Prague decided to completely suspend the 2007 agreement that facilitated entry permits into the Schengen zone. In addition, they agreed to increase shipping rates and extend their delivery time. In fact, the measure affects a very small proportion of the Russian population, since a total of 69% of workers in that country do not have an international passport, according to a survey released by the state agency Ria Novosti in June 2021.
But the decision to make visas more difficult and more expensive has great symbolic value, as it is offensive and vexatious to many Russians, including sectors critical of the Kremlin line and civic activists, who are disappointed by the contradiction between the values proclaimed by the EU and reality. At the moment, beyond the clearly persecuted political opponents, the EU has failed to differentiate adequately between those who go to the West to “charge their batteries”, those who flee fearing possible repressive measures and the contingents of direct or indirect accomplices of the regime, including all the civil servants of the administration, the leaders and affiliates of the political party of the Government, the members of the electoral commissions and the military, members of the security forces and employees in the defense industry.
With the abolition of the 2007 agreement, European states can bilaterally impose tougher restrictions on Russian citizens. They have begun to complain about Estonia’s abolition of already issued Schengen visas and confiscatory behavior at the borders with Finland in relation to money or technical equipment from travelers to Russia. Sanctions can be turned towards the EU as a Boomerang and they are counterproductive, says a Western diplomat stationed in Russia. The potential consumers of freedom (who in part remember the Spaniards who went to France to buy books and watch movies in Franco’s time) are irritated and this circumstance can be averted by the Moscow propaganda media.
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Journalist Alexandr Podrabínek, who was imprisoned for his ideas during the USSR, has accused the EU of having chosen “the most miserable option” to “punish the Russians for the actions of the Kremlin”. If the EU had annulled all visas, that “would have been unfair, but powerful and clear.” If he had barred entry to all those linked to the state administration, that would have been “fair and understandable.” Instead, the EU opted for a “little dirty trick”, an “insignificant sting” that does not influence or solve any problem and that consists of “taking revenge on everyone at the same time, without discerning the blame and the degree of participation” . In this way, Brussels has “played the game of the authoritarian regime, contributing to the policy of state isolationism.”
For her part, the Russian journalist Zoya Svétova wrote in the daily Le Monde that, in a totalitarian country, it is not possible to know whether the citizens support the authorities or not and recalls that hundreds of people have been prosecuted in Russia under the article of the criminal code that punishes “hoaxes” against the army, that opposition leaders are jailed and that the opposition has been crushed”. The West’s desire to close Europe and the world is, according to Svetova, “a strategic mistake that will lead to serious consequences not only for Russia, but also for the whole world.”
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