Russia’s Ministry of Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters has issued travel restrictions to all employees like the country’s firefighters, ambulance drivers and rescue troopers, reports LifeNews.
A similar travel ban is imposed for parts of employees under the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) including tens of thousands of police officers, prison guards, and other law enforcement agencies like the Federal Drug Control and the Federal Migration Service. Others listed are people with access to state secrets, like certain employees of the Foreign Ministry. According to estimates, they are around 250,000 people.
The two reasons given to explain the travel ban are to take measure to prevent leaks of secrets and secondly, to prevent the possibility of being arrested by U.S. law enforcement agencies.
MVD has prepared a blacklist of 150 countries their employees no longer can visit. Norway, Sweden and Finland are on the list, as well as all other EU member countries and nations around the world that have an agreement with the U.S. on mutual extradition, reports Izvestia. Countries like North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam are not on the list.
Blogger51 in Murmansk reports that there is a lively discussion among police officers in an online blog-forum. Many express their frustration after already made bookings to foreign travel destinations.
Head of visa-section at Norway’s Consulate General in Murmansk, Marit Egholm Jacobsen, says to BarentsObserver that they haven’t seen any signs of less visa applications due to the travel bans. She underlines, however, that they have no possibilities to read out of the statistics which occupational group the applicants belong to. “We have had a decline in applications of 9 percent compared with the same period last year,” says Marit Egholm Jacobsen, but explains this with the the weaker ruble and fact that more of the visas issued are valid for several years.
Neither the Finnish consulate branch office in Murmansk has any statistics on the visa-applicants’ occupations.
“In common, the amount of visas has dropped this year about 25 percent comparing the amount last year. The decrease started already before the crises of Ukraine because of the weak ruble,” says Consul Martti Ruokokoski in an e-mail to BarentsObserver.
The duration of the travel ban is yet unclear. It is also unclear if it will cause any trouble for cross-border cooperation where the people in question are involved. In the Norwegian - Russian border areas, several law enforcement agencies have teamed up for closer collaboration in the last few years. Head of Police in Eastern Finnmark, Ellen Katrin Hætta, says to BarentsObserver she is not informed about the travel ban and can’t comment on it.
“So far, we have ongoing cooperation that goes as planned according to established plans,” she says.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, exceptions would be made in “exceptional circumstances” and for “good reason.”