Ukraine will introduce a visa regime for Russians from July 1, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Friday after nearly four months of Russian invasion of the country.
“Ukraine will introduce a visa regime for Russian citizens starting July 1” with the aim of “counteracting unprecedented threats to national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state,” the head of state said on Telegram.
An hour and a half later, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal announced the adoption by his government of a formal decision on the termination of a “visa-free” agreement with Russia.
“We are definitely cutting ties with Russia,” he added.
The regime’s passage will end visa-free travel for Russians, which has been in effect since Ukraine’s independence from the USSR in 1991.
“Against the background of the war started by Russia, it is necessary to tighten control over the entry of Russian citizens into Ukraine. Security is a priority,” added the Head of the Presidential Administration Andriï Iermak.
Russia and Ukraine, two former Soviet-Slavic republics that share a border nearly 2,300 kilometers long, are also closely linked by family ties between their citizens.
The number of Russians traveling to Ukraine has plummeted since Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, followed by a Kremlin-backed war with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
If 10.8 million Russians visited the neighboring country in 2013, that number plummeted to 2.5 million in 2014 before falling to 1.5 million a year from 2015 to 2019, said Andriy Demchenko, spokesman for Ukraine’s border protection agency AFP.
In 2020 and 2021, against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Russian travelers did not exceed 500,000 entries per year, according to the same source.
Ukraine, which has experienced two pro-democracy revolutions since 2004 and where Russian remains widespread, has also become a destination for exile for liberal Russians fleeing Vladimir Putin’s regime in recent years.
At the end of January, almost 175,000 Russians had residence permits in Ukraine, the State Migration Service told AFP. However, many other citizens could also be there illegally, since Kyiv has never introduced a visa regime with Russia.