Criminal case opened against Russian TV journalist who protested war on Ukraine

The Kremlin blasted European critics, including EU state leaders, and besieged Ukraine for their calls to ban all Russians from the West until their country ends his invasion of Ukraine with the underlying mindset.

The sharp response follows encouragement from the Prime Ministers of Finland and Estonia to ban visas for Russians and news that the French military has banned Russian nationals from a medieval fortress and tourist site outside Paris which houses military archives.

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has killed tens of thousands of troops and civilians since its launch in late February, triggered unprecedented financial and other sanctions, flight and airspace bans, and contributed to a global food crisis.

Some EU countries, including Latvia, have already stopped issuing visas to Russians, citing the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose defiant leadership has included nightly video messages pleading for international help, this week urged the West to ban all Russians to discourage Moscow from trying to annex more territory.

Zelenskiy told the Washington Post that “any kind of Russian” should be forced “to go to Russia.”

But Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Aug. 9 that the “irrationality of thinking” behind calls for such bans “is irrelevant.”

Amid growing tensions with the West, poisonings abroad allegedly ordered by senior Russian officials, and the influx of Russian troops and proxy fighters from Georgia to Ukraine to Syria and Central Africa, Putin and other Russian officials complained of growing “Russophobia”.

Peskov said the new calls to ban Russians “can only be seen in an extremely negative light” and warned that “any attempt to isolate Russians or Russia is a dead-end process.”

EU members and Russia’s neighbors Finland and Estonia have hinted they are ready to try a visa ban.

On August 8, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Finnish TV channel YLE that “it is not right that Russia is waging an aggressive and brutal war of aggression in Europe, that Russians can lead a life normal, traveling in Europe, being tourists”.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas followed by calling on countries to “stop issuing tourist visas to Russians”.

“Visiting #Europe is a privilege, not a human right”, Kallas tweeted. “Air travel from the RU is halted. This means that while Schengen countries issue visas, Russia’s neighbors carry the burden (FI, EE, LV – single access points). It’s time to end to tourism from Russia now.”

Banning all Russians would also impact the tens of thousands of people who have left this country in protest or disagreement with the actions of Putin and his administration.

“Then they will understand,” the Ukrainian president told the Washington Post. “They will say, ‘That [war] has nothing to do with us. The whole population can’t be held responsible, can it? It can. The people chose this government and they are not fighting it, not arguing with it, not yelling at it.”

“Don’t you want this isolation?” Zelensky added, speaking as if addressing the Russians directly. “You are telling the whole world that it has to live by your rules. So go live there. It’s the only way to influence Putin.”

The French army has banned Russians from visiting the Château de Vincennes, once the residence of the kings of France and a place of visits and concerts, as well as part of the historical archives of the French armed forces.

AFP cited two Russian women who were refused entry by French guards after they showed their papers and were told they could not enter “because you are Russian”.

Putin has spent the decades since taking office in 1999 consolidating and tightening the country’s grip on the media, including restrictions of the past decade like “foreign agent” laws and “undesirable” designations for punish activists, journalists and any other perceived enemies.

Since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine, criminal proceedings and other penalties have been imposed for criticizing the Russian military or even simply describing the conflict as a war, rather than the Kremlin’s preferred term, a “special military operation”.

With AFP and AP reporting

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