We don’t expect the West to denounce xenophobia and prejudice on this one: officials in Kiev have announced that Russian men will be barred from the country following the imposition of martial law this week.
The ruling targets men aged 16-60, who will no longer be able to enter the country, with the only exceptions being for “humanitarian cases” like funerals or an emergency. Martial law is in effect in 10 Ukrainian regions until December 26 following the Russian Navy seizing three Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors in the Black Sea last Sunday as the crew stands accused of “dangerous maneuvers” in Russian territorial water.
The new restrictions connected to the martial law decree from early this week were announced following a meeting between President Petro Poroshenko and the country’s top security officials and border guard chiefs in Kiev. The president said in a public statement that the policy aimed to prevent the further formation of “private armies” in Ukraine — a reference to pro-Russian militia groups and separatist organizations Kiev has fought since 2014.
A sizable amount of the Ukrainian population has relatives living just across the Russian border and vice versa. These families will be most impacted by the travel ban especially over the holidays. Currently direct flights between the two countries have been suspended by Kiev authorities, which along with the Russian travel ban will have a huge impact, given that 1.5 million Russian nationals visited Ukraine last year alone, according to official statistics published by Unian news agency, cited in the BBC.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reacted to the ban by assuring that Moscow had no plans to “mirror” the measure as this “could result in full madness”.
The ban will apply to all entry points to Ukraine, especially along the 1200+ miles of the Ukrainian-Russian land border, which is enforced by a system of Ukrainian border fortifications — through the ambitious project akin to a “border wall” is still in development and unfinished. Further details of how security officials plan to enforce the ban have yet to be revealed.
In mid-September, one Ukrainian province in the western part of the country issued an official ban on all Russian-language books, films, broadcasts and songs. A regional council had voted to “impose a moratorium on the public broadcast and use of Russian-language content” until Russian forces “withdraw” from Ukraine, however unlikely it is to actually enforce.
Early this week in a televised interview Poroshenko condemned what he described as a rapidly increased Russian military presence on the border with Ukraine, saying, “The number of [Russian] tanks at bases located along our border has tripled,” according to the AFP.
The Ukrainian president added that “the number of units that have been deployed along our border – what’s more, along its full length – has grown dramatically.” He ultimately concluded that the military buildup meant that the country is “under threat of full-scale war with Russia.”
But Kiev’s latest anti-Russian travel ban is sure to only stoke tensions dramatically, especially as it takes the conflict far beyond the mere political domain, targeting language and identity in a Balkanized sense, and dividing families in the process.