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EU demands clampdown on issuing visas to Russian citizens

Finnish border guards on patrol, at the Vaalimaa border check point between Finland and Russia in Virolahti, Finland, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. The Finnish-Russia border was closed Friday after the Nordic country announced it would ban Russians with tourist visas from entering, curtailing one of the last easily accessible routes to Europe for Russians trying to flee a military mobilization. Long queues were reported until midnight and among the last to enter Finland were two cyclists who arrived a little before 11 p.m., Finnish broadcaster YLE reported. (Sasu Makinen./Lehtikuva via AP)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s top migration official on Friday urged the bloc’s 27 nations to clamp down on issuing visas to Russian citizens amid heightened security concerns over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats and his annexation of parts of Ukraine.

“This is clearly an escalation and that means also an escalation of the security threat towards the European Union,” Migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson said.

She urged EU countries to enforce more stringent checks on Russian citizens and deny documents to anyone who might pose a threat.

Over 194,000 Russian citizens have fled to neighboring Georgia, Kazakhstan and Finland — often by car, bicycle or on foot — since Putin last week announced a partial mobilization of reservists to bolster his troops in Ukraine. In Russia, the vast majority of men under 65 are registered as reservists.

Johansson said EU authorities must stop short-term visa holders from Russia from renewing them in Europe. “If a Russian person intends to stay longer than 90 days in the EU, he or she should not be issued a visa,” she told reporters.

Johansson also said Russians who have fled the country should not be allowed to apply for visas abroad.

“They have to do that from their home country, Russia,” she said, but underlined that they should be allowed in for humanitarian reasons, or other exceptional circumstances.

Johansson also urged countries to reassess whether already valid visas should have been issued. She said that none of the measures the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, is recommending would stop Russian citizens from applying for asylum in Europe.

“The right to have a short term visa into the EU is not a fundamental right. It’s privilege. The right to apply for asylum is a fundamental right,” Johansson said.