Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has continued urging the European Union to implement a travel ban on all Russians, essentially blaming the "whole population" for launching the invasion, as he told The Washington Post on Monday.
"Whichever kind of Russian… make them go to Russia," he had said. "They’ll understand then. They’ll say, ‘This [war] has nothing to do with us. The whole population can’t be held responsible, can it?’ It can. The population picked this government and they’re not fighting it, not arguing with it, not shouting at it." With that statement, it seems the Ukrainian leader is even advocating for sending current Russian residents of Europe 'back' to Russia.
While some countries like Finland, Latvia, and Estonia were quick to back the idea, some officials have expressed discomfort and reluctance at the obvious ethnic-based collective punishment program and xenophobia.
Early in the war the EU had already banned commercial air travel from Russia, with some countries like Finland individually banning rail as well. Now Zelensky is lobbying European leaders to "close the borders, because the Russians are taking away someone else’s land." He has also recently complained that the West's current anti-Russia sanctions are "weak".
But on Thursday German Chancellor Scholz rejected the proposed blanket travel ban targeting all Russians, saying that "sanctions should target Russian President Putin and supporters of war on Ukraine, not innocent citizens."
Meanwhile The Guardian points out that other countries will likely remain key obstacles to any proposed travel ban:
Other countries, however, are not so sure. Some with traditionally close ties to Russia, such as Hungary, would be likely to strongly oppose a ban, while member states with large Russian communities such as Germany argue that the move would divide families and penalize opponents of the war who have already left.
The European Commission has also questioned the feasibility of a blanket travel ban, saying certain categories of travellers – including family members, journalists and dissidents – should be granted visas in all circumstances.
Enough with the collective punishment please. https://t.co/uYphEuP1k5— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) August 11, 2022
Others have proposed alternate means of "punishing" Russians, including a special tax that would be levied against Russian nationals, which the proceeds going toward Ukraine reconstruction.
It remains that if the EU were to tell 145 million Russians they can no longer travel to Europe for any reason in a sweeping ban, it goes without saying that this would be unlikely to impact Putin's war-time decision making in any way. Instead, it would only serve to punish common people, who also have a wide range of views regarding the war in Ukraine.