Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree imposing visa restrictions on citizens of countries Moscow deems “unfriendly” in retaliation for Western sanctions over his country’s military operation in neighboring Ukraine.
The presidential order on Monday would suspend visa-free entry into Russia for the holders of diplomatic passports for the entire European Union countries as well as the United States, Britain, Canada and Ukraine.
The decree also mandated the Russian Foreign Ministry and other bodies to decide on introducing personal entry restrictions on “foreign citizens and stateless people who commit unfriendly actions against Russia, its citizens or its legal entities.”
Last month, the Russian government approved a list of what it called “unfriendly” countries that imposed sanctions against Moscow over the campaign in Ukraine.
In a televised speech on February 24, Putin announced a “special military operation” aimed at “demilitarization” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine. In 2014, the two regions declared themselves new republics, refusing to recognize Ukraine’s Western-backed government.
Announcing the operation, Putin said the mission was aimed at “defending people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.” The United States and its European allies have labeled the military operation as “Putin’s land grab,” imposing unprecedented sanctions on Moscow.
Russia to resume flights with 52 ‘friendly’ countries
Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin as saying on Monday that Moscow plans to end its ban on flights to and from 52 countries from April 9 on as Russia continues to lift Covid-19 related restrictions.
“Russia plans to resume flights to and from Argentina, South Africa and other friendly countries,” Mishustin said, referring to nations which did not join the latest wave of Western sanctions.
The Russian government imposed broad travel restrictions at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, many of which remain in force but Moscow has gradually expanded the list of countries deemed safe for air travel.
Other countries with which Russia will resume flights include Algeria, China, Lebanon, Peru and Pakistan, Russia’s Coronavirus task force said.
Russia has closed its airspace to airlines from 36 countries, including all 27 members of the European Union, in retaliation for Ukraine-related sanctions targeting its aviation sector, which have forced Western firms to terminate leasing contracts with Russian airlines for over 500 aircraft.
The sanctions also prevent Russian airlines from buying aircraft parts or maintenance services from Europe or the United States.
US pushes to suspend Russia from UNHRC
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Monday that Washington would ask the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after Ukraine accused Russian troops of killing dozens of civilians in the town of Bucha.
“The images out of Bucha and devastation across Ukraine require us to now match our words with action,” Thomas-Greenfield, visiting Romania to see how the country is coping with an influx of Ukraine refugees, told reporters. “Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce. And it is wrong, which is why we believe it is time the UN General Assembly vote to remove them.”
Russia is in its second year of a three-year term on the Geneva-based council. The General Assembly has adopted two resolutions denouncing Russia with at least 140 ‘yes’ votes. A two-third majority vote by the 193-member assembly in New York can suspend a state from the council for persistently committing gross and systematic violations of human rights during its membership.
In a video message on Saturday, the mayor of Bucha, Anatoliy Fedoruk, claimed that 300 people had been killed by the Russian army with some appearing to have been bound by their hands and feet before being shot. He also presented footage and photographs showing the dead bodies of those allegedly killed or executed by Russian troops, claiming that 280 bodies had been buried in mass graves while nearly 10 others were either unburied or only partially covered by earth.
Ukrainian authorities said they were investigating possible “war crimes” in Bucha while the Kremlin categorically dismissed any accusations related to the murder of civilians in the town.