Aleksey Meshkov, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, said in a press briefing on November 29, 2016 that the European Union (EU) is committing “visa genocide.” He inferred that Crimeans with Russian passports must change their nationality to Ukrainian to get an EU visa.
After annexation in 2014, Russian law allowed Crimeans to become Russian citizens. Though the law did not require Crimeans to give up their Ukrainian passports or citizenship, Crimeans faced economic and social hardship if they did not take Russian citizenship.
Crimeans rejecting Russian citizenship also faced being deemed foreigners in their own land by Russian authorities. In Russia, passports too serve as a crucial identity document.
The annexation of Crimea came following Russian military intervention and a referendum that the U.N General Assembly, the United States, Ukraine, the European Parliament, numerous other governments, and many in the international press called illegal.
There is no evidence to support Meshkov's claim of "visa genocide" by the EU. And there is no EU demand that Crimeans "change the citizenship that they had once accepted" to get an EU visa.
EU officials say there is no blanket ban on Crimeans coming into the EU. However, they say Crimeans who attempt to use post-annexation Russian passports issued in Crimea will not be granted an EU visa.
In a December 8, 2016 e-mail to Polygraph.info, European Union Ukrainian delegation spokesman David Stulik wrote, “The EU does not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol and thus does not recognize the Russian authorities illegally established in the annexed territory. Therefore, Russian passports issued by these authorities should not be used to apply for Schengen visas.
“Russian citizens who held this citizenship prior to the illegal annexation, and who resided in Crimea/Sevastopol, can continue to use their Russian passports when applying for Schengen visa. However, their Russian travel documents may not be recognized if issued after the annexation by the Russian Federal Migration Service offices in Crimea or in Sevastopol.”
The EU will also not grant visas to people and businesses on a Crimea-related sanctions list.
Virginie Battu-Henriksson, EU press officer for foreign affairs, wrote in a December 6, 2016 e-mail to Polygraph.info: “A list of currently 152 persons are targeted by a travel ban and an asset freeze in respect of actions undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.”
The EU says Crimeans can apply for an EU visa in Ukraine. As the EU will not accept a post-annexation Russian passport, Crimeans could present unexpired Ukrainian passports or one from other nationalities.
Experts say Russia has made travel to the EU difficult for Crimeans by issuing them travel documents which the EU cannot recognize.
Sijbren de Jong, an analyst at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, wrote in a December 5, 2016 e-mail to Polygraph.info: “If the Russians in their desire to make their illegal annexation look as legal as possible have somehow made it obvious that the passports were stamped in Crimea, this obviously renders the legality of the document problematic.”