No more free entry: Ukraine to launch visas for Russians from July 1, says Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday (June 17) that Kyiv wants to introduce visas for Russians from July 1. This announcement comes four months into Moscow's invasion of Ukraine that has left the country in tatters. The introduction of visas would mean that Ukraine is scrapping visa-free entry for Russians that began when Ukraine became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. Now Russians will be required to obtain visas to enter Ukraine.
On his Telegram account, Zelensky said: "Ukraine is introducing a visa regime for citizens of the Russian Federation." He also said that the requirement would take effect on "July 1, 2022". A government decision on the same is expected "today".
Andriy Yermak, who is Zelensky's chief of staff, said the move was being taken to bolster the country's defensive efforts also in the consideration of because of Russia's ongoing invasion that began on February 24.
He said, "Due to the full-scale war launched by the Russian Federation, we need to strengthen the control over the entry of Russian nationals into our territory. Security is a priority."
Russia and Ukraine are neighbours and they share a border stretching almost 2,300 kilometres. Citizens from both countries also share extensive family links.
It is understood that the number of Russians travelling to Ukraine fell sharply after Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula. The move had led to a war with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine that was apparently backed by the Kremlin.
Andrey Demchenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's border guards, told AFP that in 2013, 10.8 million Russians visited Ukraine but a year later, that figure plummeted to 2.5 million. And between 2015 and 2019, it further dropped to some 1.5 million a year.
In 2020 and 2021 as the Covid pandemic took hold, the number of Russian travellers did not exceed 500,000 a year, he said.