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Sharp rise in EU tourists seeking Russian visas – foreign ministry

The number of Europeans applying has spiked by more than 50% compared to last year

Russia registered a jump in tourist visa applications from EU citizens this year, despite sanctions on Russia and continued strained relations between Moscow and Brussels over the conflict in Ukraine, the head of the consular department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexei Klimov, told RIA Novosti on Sunday.

According to Klimov, Moscow issued 57% more tourist visas to Europeans in the first nine months of this year, compared to the same period in 2022.

From January 1 to September 30, 2023, the foreign missions of the Russian Foreign Ministry issued 225,000 visas of all categories in European countries, including 141,000 tourist visas,” Klimov stated. He noted that more recently there has been a noticeable surge in visa applications from the Baltic states; the number of visas issued to Lithuanians increased by 75% and more than tripled for Estonians in August and September, compared to the two previous months.

Klimov noted, however, that the total number of Russian visas issued to Europeans, including diplomatic, work, student and other types of visas, decreased by 10% in January-September. Also, this year’s figures are still far behind those registered before the conflict in Ukraine, he said. For instance, in the first nine months of 2019, Russia issued 1.6 million visas to EU citizens, including 1.1 million tourist visas.

Klimov stressed that Russia continues to be “open and hospitable” to European travelers, but noted that the bloc’s attitude toward Russian citizens is far less welcoming with “Russian citizens experiencing the most serious difficulties in obtaining visas and entering the territory of the EU.”

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In September 2022, the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland unilaterally suspended Visa Facilitation Agreements (VFA) with Russia, which simplified the process of obtaining visas and had been in force for over 15 years. As a result, Russians now have to pay €80 for a Schengen visa instead of the previous €35, have to submit a full list of documents when applying for a visa instead of the simplified list included in the VFAs, and wait longer for the decision on their visa applications.

Such hostile discriminatory actions seriously damage the humanitarian component of international relations, which are based primarily on the principle of reciprocity,” Klimov declared, affirming that Russia continues to partially adhere to the provisions of the agreements.

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