Sanction the Oligarchs and Give Russians Visas

The following post is the English translation of remarks delivered by the authors to the EU Parliament on April 1, 2014.

Putin wants a new Iron Curtain to fall between Europe and Russia. He is doing everything he can to achieve that. TV screens in Russia spew shameless anti-Western propaganda akin to that in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The people of Russia do not need the Iron Curtain. It is Putin, his officials and his oligarchy that need the Iron Curtain in order to continue with their propaganda, and their oil and gas-money grabbing. To them, everyone around them is the enemy. Except Putin. The leader that allows his cronies to earn 138 million rubles a month in wages, like Igor Sechin does.

Putin and his team live by Hegel's maxim: "If facts contradict my theory, so much the worse for the facts." This is the underlying principle of all the Russian media seized by Putin's team.

Let's say "yes" to expanding sanctions against Putin's officials and his oligarchy. The EU should turn to strict sanctions against the Russian elite responsible for aggression in Ukraine and corruption. The list of people under sanctions should grow.

Let's say "no" to sanctions against ordinary Russians. The sanctions should not affect the Russian people. The sanction list should only include the members of Putin's elites responsible for aggression in Crimea and robbing Russia.

We should expand contact between Russia and Europe and lighten the heavy visa requirements for Russians. To do otherwise is letting Putin build an Iron Curtain that he will only benefit from. We need more cultural, social and human rights contacts between Russia and the West. We advocate easing the visa process with the EU for ordinary Russian citizens. Ordinary Russians should have a chance to visit Europe and see everything for themselves. That is the only way to fight against the propaganda campaigns.

Europe should aid the people of Crimea, who are in a tough legal situation due to the region coming under Russian control and may, as a result, face problems getting visas to European countries. But if the EU turns its back on the Crimean people, Crimea will be abandoned, left alone with Putin's oligarchs and crooks from the EU's sanction list. These oligarchs will build villas on the pristine shores of Crimea and throw those who raise their voices against developing and ruining the environment there into jails and prisons.

We suggest expanding sanctions on members of Putin's elite. We'd like to see the following people be added to that list:

  • Dmitry Medvedev, who has long been regarded by the West and some Russians as a member of the "liberal camp" of the Russian establishment, while actually being an odious and hypocritical agent of Putin's will.
  • Igor Sechin, the de facto head of the Russian extraction industry, director of Rosneft and supervisor of Putin's Siloviki block.
  • Roman Abramovich, a key oligarch in Putin's inner circle, the majority of whose assets currently are in the West.
  • Viktor Vekselberg, an oligarch from Putin's and Medvedev's inner circle supervising the "high-tech project" sector of the Russian economy, the Skolkovo innovation cluster project, personally responsible for inefficiency and embezzling in these spheres.