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11 Aug, 2022 21:44

UN responds to visa ban on Russians

A spokesperson for the UN secretary-general said the body stands against discrimination
UN responds to visa ban on Russians

The UN has weighed in on Estonia’s decision to ban Russians with Schengen visas issued in the Baltic country, with the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres telling journalists on Thursday that the organization is against discrimination.

“Countries have a right to implement their own visa policies,” Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for Guterres, told journalists at a news briefing when asked to comment on Tallinn’s recent move. He added, however, that the organization was against discrimination.

“We stand against discrimination but I am not going to start commenting on every quip,” he said, refusing to elaborate further or confirm whether the UN considers Estonia’s statements or policies discriminatory. 

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas had previously said that visiting Europe was “a privilege, not a human right” for tourists, as she urged the EU to bar Russians from getting Schengen visas. On Thursday, Tallinn confirmed it would close its borders to Russian nationals with Schengen visas issued by the Baltic nation at the start of next week. 

The only exceptions would be made for those working at diplomatic missions and their family members, as well as those engaged in international cargo and passenger transportation. Relatives of Estonian citizens, permanent residents, and those entering for humanitarian reasons are to be exempted as well. 

The Estonian government also plans to discuss a possible path to barring all Russian nationals that hold Schengen visas from entering the country. The EU is also reportedly about to discuss a potential ban on issuing Schengen visas to Russians later in August. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has made similar demands, calling for Russians living in Europe and the US to be deported and sent home.

The EU has so far appeared to be reluctant to follow the path suggested by Kallas and Zelensky, however. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday that it was “hard to imagine” banning Schengen visas for Russians altogether. Officials in Brussels were also skeptical of the idea, according to the Financial Times. 

Meanwhile, Moscow has blasted the proposal as “delirious” and “irrational.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also pointed out that a complete visa ban for Russian travelers would go against the EU’s own rules and obligations, which state that entry to the bloc cannot be denied on the basis of nationality.