The Kremlin sent a letter to EU ambassadors in Moscow late last week with a list of over 80 EU politicians who have been banned from entering the country.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte made the matter public on Friday, with the Belgian government protesting Moscow’s move, widely viewed as a reprisal for the EU’s move to blackball a number of Russians from entering the 28-nation bloc.
Out of 89 names on the list – a German version of which was published in full by Finnish public broadcaster Yle on Friday night – 18 are from Poland, with politicians from across the spectrum as well as military personnel, mostly top-brass.
Among Polish politicians incorporated on the list are Senate Speaker Bogdan Borusewicz, former foreign minister Anna Fotyga, as well as former head of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek and MEPs: Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Paweł Kowal, Marek Migalski, Ryszard Czarnecki and Ryszard Legutko.
Blacklist nothing new?
The existence of the Kremlin’s blacklist was reported by Russian agency RIA Novosti last week.
The list is commonly agreed to be retaliation for sanctions slapped on Russia by the West after Moscow annexed Crimea and became involved in the Donbas conflict in eastern Ukraine last year.
RIA Novosti cites an anonymous Russian diplomatic source who said that the list was drawn up at the request of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, with the names put forward by Russian embassies in various countries of people “who undertake anti-Russian activities or are suspected of corruption”.
Russia has claimed that while the list has not been officially published, a copy can be found in every Russian embassy throughout Europe and people applying for a Russian visa may check whether they are not on the list.
The diplomatic source failed to say how many politicians were on the list, although said that there are some “in practically every European country”, going on to add that “the EU has been informed of this list”.
First Borusewicz, now Wellmann
The publication of the list comes days after Russian border guards denied entry to a German MP, Karl-Georg Wellmann, who was set to meet with high-ranking politicians in Moscow to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine.
According to the Kommersant daily, Wellmann was to meet with Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, as well as presidential advisor Sergey Glazyev.
However, border guards did not let Wellmann in the country, saying that he had been barred from entering Russia until 2019.
The denial of entry comes after Russian authorities also stopped Polish Senate Speaker Bogdan Borusewicz at the border in March. He had been billed to attend the funeral of the murdered outspoken Kremlin critic, Boris Nemtsov.
Other people not granted entry to Russia for the funeral include the head of the Polish Institute of Foreign Affairs, Marcin Zaborski, as well as Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete.
Earlier, German MEP Rebecca Harms had also been refused entry after wanting to intervene in the case of imprisoned Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko.