(Bloomberg) -- The Czech Republic, which holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, backed calls from some member states for a bloc-wide ban on visas for Russian citizens in response to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said his government will seek consensus on the measure, which so far has gained little traction outside of the EU’s Baltic members, at a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers later this month. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signaled Thursday he wouldn’t support it.
Russians “should realize that such a militant policy has consequences,” Lipavsky said in a statement on Friday. The Czech Republic has joined Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in imposing tough restrictions on travel and work visas for Russian nationals.
Such a broad set of restrictions on Russian citizens would be a major escalation and a move toward a divide similar to the Cold War isolation of the Soviet Union from the West. Travel bans so far have focused on top-level Russian officials in Putin’s inner circle or oligarchs who control industry.
Baltic authorities in particular have pressed the issue after seeing an influx of Russian travelers cross into the region since the government in Moscow lifted Covid-19 restrictions last month. Russians can still enter if they have visas issued by other EU member states, since the visa-free Schengen area allows access to the entire bloc.
Estonia announced tougher restrictions on Thursday, saying it will block entry to some 50,000 Russians who had been granted visas by authorities in Tallinn before the invasion began on Feb. 24. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas called for an end to tourism visas for Russians.
But the German chancellor said such a blanket measure went too far, saying he would have “difficulty” envisaging such a move.
“This is Putin’s war,” Scholz told reporters in Berlin, when asked about banning visas on Thursday.
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