EU hits out at ‘arbitrary and unjustified’ Russia travel blacklist


Philippe SIUBERSKI, AFP

The formerly undisclosed list was revealed to European diplomats on Thursday, and includes past and serving parliamentarians and ministers who have openly criticised President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine. Military figures and secret service chiefs are also thought to be on the list. European politicians who discovered they had been banned from travelling to Russia wore the badge proudly, as Brussels took aim at Moscow for the decision. Beyond releasing the names of the blacklisted individuals to diplomats, Moscow has failed to provide “any other information on legal basis, criteria and process of this decision,” the EU’s foreign service said. “We consider this measure as totally arbitrary and unjustified, especially in the absence of any further clarification and transparency,” it added. Blacklisted politicians were nevertheless proud about being banned by Russia. “Those who try to censor us and make us scared for standing up for values deserve even more criticism. For me it’s about being very committed to standing up for peace and freedom in Ukraine,” one of those banned, Swedish MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, told AFP. “I’m more proud than scared and this gives me more determination to continue… If the Kremlin takes me and my colleagues seriously it means we’re doing a good job,” the centre-right politician, married to Sweden’s former foreign minister Carl Bildt, added. She was among eight Swedes and several MEPs confirmed on the list, which was drawn up in response to the EU’s own sanctions and travel bans on Russia citizens over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine last year.

‘Does not help’

Former Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, a staunch critic of Russia’s policy towards Ukraine, also confirmed he was on the list and welcomed it. “When I saw the other names (on the list), I found out I was in a very decent club. I consider this a reward,” he was quoted as saying by news agency CTK. Other names have since been made public including Guy Verhofstadt, head of the Liberal group in the European Parliament and a former Belgian PM, and Sweden’s former centre-right culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth.

Nine Britons are thought to be on the list, including the head of the MI5 domestic intelligence agency, Andrew Parker, the head of the armed forces Nick Houghton, former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind and former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. “I have read the reports in the media but not a word from the Russians!” Rifkind told AFP via email as the Foreign Office said there was “absolutely no justification for this list” According to German daily Bild seven German nationals have been targeted including Michael Fuchs, vice-president of the national parliament’s conservative CDU-CSU group and Franco-German former MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit.