Lithuania Suggests ‘Crimea Test’ for Russians Seeking Entry Into Europe

( – If the E.U. doesn’t impose a bloc-wide ban on visas for Russian visitors, then Russia’s immediate European neighbors should implement their own system to regulate overland border crossings, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said this week.

And one way of filtering would-be visitors from Russia, he suggested, would be to ask applicants for their views on the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine – and whether they believe Crimea belongs to Ukraine or Russia.

“The border guard has the right to ask if you support the war in Ukraine, and who Crimea belongs to,” Lithuanian media quoted Landsbergis as telling reporters.

“If a person crossing the Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Finnish or Polish border [from Russian territory] says that he or she thinks that Crimea is not occupied, we can assume that allowing this person in is not in line with our national security interests.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the strategic Ukrainian peninsula in 2014 after a referendum of its inhabitants not recognized by most of the international community.


In reaction to the invasion of Ukraine six months ago, the E.U. imposed a ban on Russian aircraft using its airspace and airports. Russians traveling to Europe overland enter through Finland, Estonia, Latvia, or – via Belarus or Kaliningrad – Lithuania or Poland. They can still fly to E.U. destinations, but must do so transiting through hubs like Istanbul or Dubai.

Soon after the invasion began Lithuania placed restrictions on visas for Russian nationals, including Schengen visas, which grant the bearer visa-free travel within the 26-nation Schengen zone. Its Baltic neighbors followed suit.

Earlier this month leaders in Finland and Estonia called for an E.U.-wide ban on all Russian visitors, with Estonia’s prime minister saying, “Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” and, “Time to end tourism from Russia now.”

The calls prompted Russian officials to accuse them of Nazi-like policies.

Landsbergis said Lithuania would prefer a decision to be taken at an E.U. level, because that would be “the most sustainable and legally correct one.”

However, “If such a solution is not found, we do not rule out looking for a regional solution that would involve the Baltic states, Poland and, potentially, Finland,” he said.

Landsbergis pointed out that lawmakers in his country earlier this year passed a resolution accusing Russia of sponsoring terrorism and of committing genocide, and said that, as such, Russian tourists should not be allowed entry.

He emphasized that those who were persecuted by the Russian regime (and its Belarusian ally), along with family members, would be exempt from the envisaged ban.

Calls for a ban have sparked debate between those saying ordinary Russians should not be punished for Putin’s actions and those contending that many Russians support those actions.

“The Russian people support this war, at least for now,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausda told reporters on Wednesday. “Russia must feel the consequences of this war – not only Putin, but all of Russia. Because, unfortunately, this is Russia’s war.”

Nausda said that at a time when blood was being shed in Ukraine, Russian tourists were “having a great time in European resorts.”

“This should not be happening.”

The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating E.U. presidency, has expressed support for a ban. Prague shortly after the invasion began imposed a temporary halt on visas for Russian citizens, with exemptions in humanitarian cases.

At a forum in Austria on Wednesday, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky called for a unified stance, Austria’s APA news agency reported. He said that only a small proportion of Russians travel, and that most are wealthy residents of Moscow or St. Petersburg who are little affected by Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.

At the same event, however, Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon said visa restrictions would also affect Russians opposed to Putin.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also opposes a ban, saying at a meeting in Norway last week, “This is not the war of the Russian people. It is Putin’s war and we have to be very clear on that topic.”

Greece and Cyprus have also voiced skepticism, and E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said during a conference in Spain last week that “there are many Russians that want to flee the country because they don’t want to live in this situation.”

Although the U.S. is not directly involved, a similar view came from the State Department on Monday.

“We are looking at all appropriate tools to hold Moscow to account for this war,” spokesman Ned Price told a briefing.

“At the same time, we want to ensure that we are not closing off potential pathways to those who are themselves fleeing President Putin’s repression at home,” he said.

Asta Skaisgiryte, foreign policy advisor to Nausda, told Lithuania’s LRT public broadcaster last week that some of the E.U. countries unhappy about the visa ban call earn significant revenue from Russian tourists, and this was especially important as the sector recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, Lithuania would try to persuade skeptical countries, she said.

Germany, Spain, and Italy have traditionally been among the most popular E.U. destinations for Russian tourists, along with the Baltic states and Finland.

E.U. foreign ministers are expected to discuss the issue at an informal two-day meeting in Prague next week.


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