A report on Ukraine’s Novorossia website last week claimed that the embassies of Italy, Greece, The Netherlands and the Czech Republic in Moscow had started issuing Schengen area visas to Russian citizens living in Crimea.
Citing a visa centre representative in Crimea, the website said that the four countries were going against an EU ruling in March that only Crimea residents with Ukrainian passports could apply for the visa in Kiev.
A few days later, Oleg Safonov, the acting head of Russia’s national tourism agency, was quoted on the website dni.ru as saying that the move was an indication that European countries were starting to see Crimea, which was annexed in March, as part of Russia.
In a statement posted on its website, the Italian Embassy in Kiev denied the reports, adding: “When it comes to processing requests for a Schengen visa, Italy underlines that its consulates operate in complete compliance with the rules and the provisions of the community’s visa code.”
A Schengen visa allows passport-free movement within 26 European countries. The visa costs €35 for Russians and Ukrainians.
On Monday, European Union foreign ministers discussed more sanctions against Russia amid fresh clashes in eastern Ukraine.
Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said help to reform Ukraine would also be on the agenda.
Yury Barmin, an independent political analyst on Russia, told The Local it is unlikely that Italy would want to support more sanctions against Russia as “a lot of Italian businesses are suffering already, especially in agriculture”.
“Italy has to be on the bandwagon because it’s in the EU,” Barmin said.
“But Italy is not fully supportive of the sanctions; Italy’s economy is already struggling.”
Barmin added that close ties between Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had deepened relations between the two countries.