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Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

Russian Emigres Should Keep Silent on Possible Visa Bans

Instead of aligning with the Kremlin, it’s best they accept that many European countries have good reason not to welcome Russian tourists.

No flags for Russians in Krakow.

No flags for Russians in Krakow.

Photographer: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There’s an issue on which Russians opposed to Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine have aligned passionately with the Kremlin: The proposal by some European nations to stop the issuance of tourist visas to Russians. This unfortunate alignment represents a failure of vision and leadership for the anti-Putin exile and emigre community. 

Even before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for Europe to stop letting in more Russians and to send home the ones already there — a call he has since tempered, saying Russian asylum seekers should still get visas — some of Russia’s most consistent antagonists, especially in the Baltic countries, began agitating for a visa ban. Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is one of the public faces of the campaign. With Estonia barring Russians with valid Estonian-issued visas for the European Union’s Schengen free travel area, the drive has picked up some momentum: Latvia, Finland and the Czech Republic — which now holds the EU’s rotating presidency — are stopping new Schengen visa issuance.