Poland threatens Russians with blanket travel ban

The anti-Russian sanctions should be “very powerful,” Poland’s president believes

Sanctions against Moscow may include travel restrictions for all Russian citizens, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said on Wednesday during his visit to Kiev. The threat of a blanket ban comes after Moscow recognized two breakaway eastern Ukrainian republics as independent states and warned Kiev against taking them by force.

Duda floated tough anti-Russian sanctions in comments to the media after he and his Lithuanian counterpart, Gitanas Nauseda, met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss the ongoing crisis.

“Unfortunately, the sanctions must be very strong. I, as a neighbor of Russia – as Poland borders with the Kaliningrad region – will do this with regret, speaking in favor of sanctions, which, for example, will block travel opportunities for Russian citizens,” Duda said.

The Polish leader claimed that the behavior of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country’s authorities are driving the country back to the Soviet times, when “the world was simply closed for most citizens of the Soviet Union.” At the same time, he said he believes that a vast majority of Russian citizens do not want any wars, while being able to travel, do business, and go sightseeing across the “free world.”

“We are calling on Russia to de-escalate and withdraw its military forces concentrated around Ukraine’s borders and immediately refrain from further military action,” Duda added.

The new wave of anti-Russian sanctions comes after Moscow moved to recognize the independence of the Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR) People’s Republics. The two states broke away from Kiev back in 2014, following the Maidan events that saw the democratically-elected government of Ukraine ousted. The rebellion turned into a years-long conflict between the republics and the Kiev authorities, with low-intensity fighting continuing despite repeated international efforts to broker peace.

Explaining the decision to recognize the republics, Putin claimed it was the only option to protect the people living there, given that the Kiev authorities have not implemented the 2014-15 Minsk agreements that provided a roadmap out of the crisis. He insisted that Ukraine has been gearing up for war, seeking to launch a “Blitzkrieg” against the republics. Kiev has denied seeking to attack the republics, accusing the rebels of shelling themselves and blowing up their own infrastructure to frame Ukrainian forces.

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