MOSCOW, July 17. /TASS/. A top European Union official has refuted Kiev’s reports that Russian tourists who visited Crimea might have their Schengen visas annulled.
"We will not calculate who has driven or flown to the peninsula," Russian Kommersant newspaper quoted its high-ranking source in Brussels as saying on Friday, adding that the information spread in Ukraine was "utterly surprising".
Crimea’s former Minister of Resorts and Tourism Alexander Liyev, currently an aide to Ukraine’s minister of agrarian policy and food, said that Russian citizens who had travelled to the Black Sea peninsula might face problems with entering Europe. He said Kiev was planning to forward lists of "border violators" to diplomatic missions of EU countries so that "these people would be deprived of visas".
The EU source said this was "absolutely impossible", noting that "all visa restrictions existing in the EU in respect of Crimea are well known and have been officially announced".
"These restrictions do not affect Russian tourists visiting Crimea. And we will certainly not calculate who has driven or flown to the peninsula or somehow limit their right to enter countries in the Schengen zone," the source said.
"According to the Russian law, visiting Crimea is no different from visiting any other Russian region," Dmitry Konstantinov, an expert at law firm Ilyashev & Partners told TASS, adding that Ukraine’s plans to collect information on Russian citizens raised questions about the legitimacy of such actions and could lead to sanctions in Russia.
"At the same time, it seems doubtful that the Ukrainian authorities will be able to create a database of Russians that could be used in the European Union," he said.
Crimea, where most residents are ethnic Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
In mid-March last year, Crimea re-joined Russia following a referendum. More than 82% of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96% backed splitting from Ukraine and spoke in favour of reuniting with Russia.
Results of the referendum were celebrated by many Crimeans but the vote was widely criticised by Western leaders and at the United Nations.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea was part of Russia until 1954, when Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimean region, along with Sevastopol, to Ukraine's jurisdiction.