Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has called on Western countries to ban all Russian visitors – and the Kremlin has responded with scorn.
Russians should “live in their own world until they change their philosophy”, Mr Zelensky told The Washington Post.
Such a ban, he argued, would be more effective than the current sanctions which barred Russian airlines and officials linked to the Kremlin.
Russians could still get European Union (EU) and US visas.
Mr Zelensky’s call may get only limited support, as Russia – despite sanctions – has extensive global business ties, and Russian tourists were still welcomed in holiday destinations such as Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
But on Tuesday, Estonia’s Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas, tweeted: “Stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right.”
Last month, Latvian Foreign Minister, Edgars Rinkevics, told the Politico website that EU countries should restrict issuing visas to Russians, with an exemption for humanitarian reasons.
And on Monday, their Nordic neighbour, Finland, also backed restrictions on Russian visitors.
Finnish Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, told national broadcaster, YLE, “it’s not right that at the same time as Russia is waging an aggressive, brutal war of aggression in Europe, Russians can live a normal life, travel in Europe, and be tourists”.
Estonia and Finland are expected to raise the visa issue at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting soon.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, condemned Mr Zelensky’s proposal, saying,”this can only be viewed extremely negatively”.
“Any attempt to isolate Russians or Russia is a process that has no prospects,” he said.
The EU’s Schengen visa allows a visitor to stay in the EU for up to 90 days for tourism or business.
The visitor can travel freely within the 26-nation Schengen zone in that period – a zone embracing 22 EU states plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
So Russians could still visit most EU countries despite the lack of direct air links. Those on Western sanctions lists however – many oligarchs and officials linked to President Putin and the Russian military – are barred.
Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine triggered far-reaching Western sanctions and prompted tens of thousands of Russians to go abroad. -BBC