Russian politicians and commentators blame and demand change after Kharkiv setback


The Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) says it is feeling the impact of the European Commission’s stricter visa processing requirements for Russian citizens, as nine European countries “no longer accept documents from tourists”.

Last Friday, the European Union (EU) decided to suspend the visa facilitation agreement with Russia, making it more difficult for Russians to travel to Europe.

“The visa facilitation agreement with the Russian Federation has been suspended. This means that Russian citizens will receive Schengen visas under the general conditions of the EU visa code,” ATOR wrote on their website Tuesday.

ATOR describes itself as the largest association of tour operators in Russia.

According to tour operators, the list of EU countries that have so far issued and continue to accept documents for tourist travel visas include Italy, Spain, Greece, France, Hungary and Cyprus. Notably, the visas granted are national visas – not Schengen, which also allow a tourist to access other European countries.

“Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands no longer accept documents from tourists,” he said.

In response, the European Commission referred CNN to its visa guidelines, which were published on line last Friday. The guidelines outlined how short-stay visa applications submitted by Russian citizens should now be handled.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said last Friday that “being a tourist in the EU is not a fundamental right”.

“Member states are advised to carefully and with a high level of control check visa applications from Russian citizens. Visas should be refused when consulates identify security risks,” she continued.

“The EU will remain open to those in need of protection, such as journalists, dissidents, human rights activists and people traveling for family reasons,” Johansson said.

According to the guidelines, consulates are able to “adapt their procedures” and are allowed to “take 45 days” to decide on Russian tourist visa applications, as opposed to “15 days in normal cases”.

“Member States should refrain from issuing multiple-entry visas with long validity, as Russian citizens may not meet the conditions for entry into the EU in the long term, given the economic instability, the measures restrictions and political developments in Russia,” the new guidelines add.

At the beginning of September The Czech Republic and Latvia have already started taking measures to restrict travel to Russia, while Estonia has banned Russians who already have visas from entering the country.

CNN has contacted the foreign ministries of the Netherlands, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Denmark and Belgium, and they have not yet responded to requests for comment.

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