Aug. 21 – According to the “If to Be Exact” portal, the number of Russians who
received visas needed for travel abroad fell to 550,000 in 2021, down from 12 million in 2011. Some of that decline is attributable to the coronavirus
pandemic, but it is very likely that this year’s figure will be even lower as
ever more countries block Russian visitors because of the war in Ukraine.
At the very least, this collapse in the number of Russians travelling abroad in the years since the Russian Anschluss of Ukraine’s Crimea may be one of the reasons that the decline since February 24th has not sparked more anger (tochno.st/materials/v-2021-godu-rossiyane-poluchili-vsego-550-tysyach-viz-v-135-raz-menshe-chem-do-prisoedineniya-kryma-my-izuchili-kak-izmenilis-poezdki-za-granitsu-za-poslednie-10-let).
That is because the earlier decline was so precipitous that the more recent fall has hit fewer people and thus is less likely to anger Russians who had already seen their chances to travel abroad greatly diminished by Putin’s foreign policy. This year’s debacle only increased a trend that had been in place for almost a decade.
According to the FSB, the portal continues, since the start of this year, Russians crossed the borders of countries requiring visas 1.3 million times. Of these, approximately half are into and out of Estonia or Finland. But compared with the first half of 2021, the share of Russians going to countries requiring a visa fell from 18.3 percent to 14.7 percent.
In contrast to what one might expect, Western countries did not limit visas extended to Russians after the 2014 Anschluss. Instead, according to a prominent Russian lawyer, they continued to give visas on the assumption that those who visited the West would be attracted to its values and carry them home. The pandemic sent the numbers down.
But now Europeans are more supportive of imposing restrictions on visas for Russians not only to punish Moscow for its war in Ukraine but out of fears that those who come on visas will apply for political asylum and seek to remain in the West permanently, something the populations of many countries do not want to see.
In fact, fewer that one in five Russians applying for asylum in a European country since 2012 have been granted that status, a total of 153,000. But because of the war in Ukraine, many in the West think that number could explode in their faces if they were to provide more visas to more Russians.