Zelensky calls on West to ban all Russian travelers

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KYIV, Ukraine — A way to prevent Russia from annexing more Ukrainian territory, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday, Western countries announced they would ban all Russian citizens in response.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post, Zelensky said that “the most important restriction is the closing of the border — because the Russians are taking away someone else’s land.” He said that Russians should “live in their own world until they change their philosophy.”

Russian leaders have signaled that they may hold annexation votes in the occupied eastern and southern parts of Ukraine – the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions – on September 11, alongside regional elections already taking place. Russian officials say the votes will legitimize Russia’s claim to the areas, but critics say the votes will be a Russian-rigged farce.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and A senior White House official It warned that any attempt to seize land through a “sham” referendum would “impose additional costs on Russia”.

It is not clear what the consequences will be. As they did before Russia invaded on February 24, Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials are pressing their Western partners to announce sanctions as a deterrent. Zelensky told The Post on Monday that the sanctions already imposed on Russia for its indirect war in Ukraine are “weak” compared to closing borders to Russian citizens for a year and a blanket ban on purchases of Russian energy.

Russian airlines are banned from flying over much of Europe and North America, making it more challenging for Russians to travel abroad. But there is no blanket ban, as Zelensky suggests; For example, Russian citizens are still free to apply for a visa to visit the United States.

Finnish Prime Minister Sana Marin She told reporters on Monday that she believed the issuance of tourist visas to Russians should be restricted and called for an EU-wide ban.

Some critics have argued that banning all Russians would unfairly affect those who have left their country because they disagree with President Vladimir Putin’s government and its decision to attack Ukraine.

Zelensky said that such differences did not matter: “Any kind of Russian … let them go to Russia.”

He said, “They will understand. “They’ll say, ‘Hey [war] Nothing to do with us. Can’t the entire population be held responsible?’ It can. The people have elected this government and they are not fighting it, arguing with it, shouting at it.”

“Don’t you want to be different?” Zelensky continued, as if he were addressing the Russians directly. “You are telling the whole world that it must live by your rules. Then go and live there. This is the only way to impress Putin.

Zelensky spoke for an hour in his presidential office, where the hallways are kept dark and sandbags are placed to protect against attack. Zelenskiy wore a black T-shirt with the Ukrainian trident symbol instead of his usual army-green fatigues. He was leaning forward and answering animated questions, gesturing with his hands, tapping the white table to make his points.

The latest updates on the Ukraine war

Russia’s control of Zaporizhia also became controversial in the wake of an alleged strike targeting Europe’s largest nuclear power plant over the weekend. The explosion was reported near a spent-fuel storage facility that was not designed to survive such attacks.

In response, world leaders and experts called on Russian occupation forces and Ukrainian defenders to declare a demilitarized zone around the site and allow international observers inside. Russia indicated on Monday that it would, but did not indicate whether it would take steps. Facilitate such a meeting.

The two sides have exchanged blame for explosions near the Zaporizhia plant, which Russia seized in March. Ukraine has accused Russia of using the plant as a shield for artillery and firing rockets into the area. Russia has accused Ukraine of launching attacks in the area.

One of the challenges for Ukrainian officials pressing for drastic measures to prevent the referendum in Kherson is to explain why this is a turning point in the war. Most of the international community would not recognize such a vote or Russia’s subsequent annexation. But analysts say that once the Russians officially claim the territory and declare it part of Russia, that erases any possibility of Russian forces withdrawing without force.

Ukrainian officials understand Russia’s thinking from experience. Russian forces invaded Crimea in 2014, in a vote that was rejected internationally, and have controlled the peninsula ever since. Officials in Kiev still complain that the Western response was not strong enough then.

Annexation would also complicate the Western arms supply to Ukraine. Officials in Washington and European capitals have carefully tried to limit the amount of weapons that can be supplied to attack Russian forces in Ukraine. But if Moscow targets the post-referendum attacks in Kherson and Zaporizhia on Russian territory, it could risk drawing NATO countries into the conflict.

Zelensky has said that annexation of territory would negate negotiations with Russia.

Ukrainian officials are concerned that Russia will push back the referendum schedule as Ukraine threatens a military counteroffensive in the region. Ukrainian forces have steadily turned back around the city of Kherson, the first major city and only regional capital captured by Russia.

A military advance is one small village at a time. That progress has been aided somewhat by Ukraine’s use of US-supplied M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS launchers, to damage the Antonovsky Bridge, which is key to Russia’s military resupply efforts.

Russia appears to be moving its forces and equipment south in response, potentially setting up a military conflict for a key Black Sea port that analysts say could be key to the course of the war. Zelensky said Russia should know that regaining control of Kherson is only the first step: “Let them know that we are going to take over all our territories as soon as we have enough troops and equipment.”

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