The European Commission issued new guidelines on Friday to further tighten visa access for Russian citizens.
Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said that the new rules were a response to the security threat that could pose to a larger number of Russian citizens fleeing compulsory military service and to the “serious situation” caused by the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions by Russia was triggered. and the reported attacks on two underwater pipelines.
She called on Member States to carry out a “more thorough” security assessment for any short-term visa application and said that the visa should be rejected if there is doubt that the person intends to stay longer than the standard period of 90 days or poses a security threat could.
“We’ve heard that Russian representatives were talking about going to EU member states and using the same language they used when they poisoned the Skripals, Yulia Skripal,” she told reporters.
“We also saw Russian citizens coming with tourist visas to provoke Ukrainian refugees and make propaganda for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”
“I think the overall situation is that the overall security threat is much, much more serious. That means we need to carry out much, much more thorough safety assessments for everyone we let from Russia into the EU,” she added.
Around 66,000 Russian citizens entered the EU legally in the week following Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization, which could involve up to 300,000 men being drafted to fight in Ukraine, according to Frontex, the bloc’s external border authority. This is a 30% increase over the previous week.
Most of them came to Finland and Estonia, which both share land borders with Russia.
Most of these legal entries involve people with either dual citizenship or a residence permit or visa for a Member State or the Schengen area.
The agency also expects that illegal border crossings will increase if Russia decides to close its borders to potential conscripts, and that there could also be an increase in illegal stays in the EU by Russian citizens who are already in the Member States.
According to Johansson, many of the Russian arrivals last week were “men in the age of mobilization.”
The Commissioner, who had previously announced the suspension of a visa facilitation agreement with Russia and restrictions on tourist visas for the country’s citizens, also reaffirmed that Member States are allowed to review already valid visas in the context of the security situation.
Russian citizens can continue to apply for a long-term visa and a residence permit, including for humanitarian reasons, with Member States being asked to give priority to urgent inquiries from dissidents, independent journalists or for urgent family reasons.
The Russians’ right to seek asylum is also unchanged under international law. This means that any Russian citizen who clearly states that they intend to apply for asylum upon arrival at an EU border must be admitted with or without a visa.
According to Johansson, there were “around 20 or 30 [asylum] applications per day” from Russian citizens in the past week.
For Russian citizens who have fled to third countries, including Georgia and Kazakhstan, and are contacting the consulates of the Member States of the European Union to apply for a visa, the Commission recommends that the authorities should be “very restrictive when issuing visas from third countries.”
“Member States should not accept genuine visa applications from citizens of the Russian Federation staying in a third country. They must do that from their home country of Russia,” she said.