https://www.rt.com/news/559917-latvia-russia-visa-ban/EU to ban entry to all Russians – Latvian Foreign Minister

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The diplomat accused Russia of shelling its own allies’ detention center without providing any evidence

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics has accused Russia of shelling a detention center in the Donetsk People’s Republic, and called on the EU to suspend tourist visas for Russian citizens. Latvia recently proposed a series of tough measures against Moscow, including forcing ordinary Russians to resign from their government.

In a tweet on Saturday, Rinkevics accused Russia of the “brutal murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war”, a reference to the deadly shelling of a detention center in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on Friday. Inside the facility were members of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi Azov battalion that surrendered to Russian and Donbass forces in Mariupol in May. Fifty of these POWs died in the strike.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the attack was carried out by the Ukrainian military using US-made HIMARS rocket launchers. The DPR authorities accused Ukraine of bombing the facility to prevent the Azov detainees from testifying about their unit’s alleged war crimes.

The US and UN have refused to blame either side for the strike, citing a lack of information.

Anyway, Rinkevics called on the EU to designate Russia as “state sponsor of terrorism”, something the block hasn’t indicated it will do. In Washington, the US State Department has expressly refused to put such a label on Russia, as it would impede the exemption from sanctions.

Rinkevics also called on the EU to impose a tourist visa ban on Russian citizens. Latvia has already issued such a ban, as have several Eastern European states, including Poland. However, the free movement laws mean that Russians entering a country in the Schengen area are then allowed to enter any of the other 25 states in the border-free travel zone.

In addition, while individual countries can restrict most types of visas, EU rules mean that visas must always be issued to certain categories of people, such as family members or journalists. A source at the European Commission explained the situation to Russia’s Interfax news agency on Friday during a discussion in Finland about imposing a complete visa ban on Russian travelers.

However, Latvia has already found other ways to restrict access from Russia. The Latvian State Security Service (VDD) told broadcaster LSM on Friday that foreigners entering the country from Russia or Belarus will have to deal with “increased control” at border checkpoints, to “identify individuals who support Russian military aggression against Ukraine.”

A woman told LSM that her husband – a Russian citizen and permanently resident in Latvia – had been asked to sign a document condemning Russia as a “aggressor” or have his residence permit revoked. Moscow sent a protest note to Latvia condemning the use of forced statements, but Rinkevics told LSM that Latvia would continue to apply such measures “in our security interests.”

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