U.S. rejects Ukraine demand of blanket visa ban on Russians

FILE PHOTO - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a joint news conference with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres following their meeting in Lviv, Ukraine August 18, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

WASHINGTON, Aug 22 (Reuters) - The United States on Monday rebuffed Ukraine's demand for a blanket visa ban on Russians, saying Washington would not want to close off pathways to refuge for Russia's dissidents and others who are vulnerable to human rights abuses.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had first urged the visa ban in an interview earlier this month with the Washington Post, saying Russians should "live in their own world until they change their philosophy."

Zelenskiy then issued another call a few weeks ago for European Union states to ban visas for Russian nationals to keep the bloc from becoming a "supermarket" open to anyone with the means to enter.

A State Department spokesperson said the Biden administration has already imposed visa restrictions for Kremlin officials but it made it clear that its focus would be on identifying those involved in Russia's invasion of Ukraine and holding them accountable.

"The U.S. wouldn’t want to close off pathways to refuge and safety for Russia’s dissidents or others who are vulnerable to human rights abuses," a State Department spokesperson said.

"We’ve also been clear that it is important to draw a line between the actions of the Russian government and its policies in Ukraine, and the people of Russia," the spokesperson added.

Some EU leaders such as Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and her Estonian counterpart, Kaja Kallas, have called for an EU-wide visa ban. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz opposed this on Monday, saying Russians should be able to flee their home country if they disagree with the regime.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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