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Russian Diplomats Being Quietly Expelled from the UK.

The UK government appears to be quietly in the process of removing Russian diplomats from the UK.

The method they are using to do this is by not renewing or issuing new visas to staff at the Russian embassies in London and Edinburgh.

The press secretary in the Russian Embassy in London today decided to go public with the dirty tricks campaign by the UK government.

Among the tactics outlined are:

Stopping extensions of diplomatic and official visas for those staff members of the Russian Embassy in London and Consulate General in Edinburgh who stay in their positions over five years.
Refusing to extend UK visas for other staff members regardless of the requested period, quite arbitrarily.
A senior diplomat had to depart the UK last month because his visa was not extended.
The Russian Embassy says this is a clear violation of international obligations, in particular, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.

According to the Vienna Convention, the functions of a member of the mission come to an end only after a relevant notification is served by the sending state (Russia) to the receiving state (UK). The Convention does not provide the receiving state with the authority to limit the length of stay, with the exception of cases when a member of a mission is declared persona non-grata or an “unacceptable person” by the receiving state.

Thus, by implication, the UK’s recent imposition of time limits on diplomatic visas, suggests the staff members refused visas are persona non-grata. A contravention of Article 9 of the Vienna Convention. In practice it means this is expulsion of Russian diplomats from the UK.

Articles 7 and 10 of the Vienna Convention, stipulate that appointment of a diplomatic agent, with the exception of the head of the mission, does not require the consent of the receiving state (the UK in this case) and is done by notification.

Under Article 25 of the same convention, the receiving state shall accord full facilities for the performance of the functions of the mission.

It can safely be assumed that the “full facilities” mentioned, would, among other things, refer to issuance of relevant documents (like visas) enabling unrestricted entry and departure of diplomatic agents to and from the UK.

Despite the Russian Embassy having made repeated appeals, the illegal actions have been already deployed by the Home Office in coordination with the Foreign Office.

Already, in addition to the senior diplomat who had to return home mentioned above, another diplomat left without being able to be replaced this month, and two further staff members will have to leave for the same reason. The extensions of their visas were made for a measly three months, instead of the more typical one or two years.

One might say that the three month visas was in fact giving semi-permanent staff the opportunity to pack up and tie up their affairs before they leave. It is a de facto expulsion.

The Russian Embassy says it is practically impossible to prepare and process replacement staff members within such a limited period of time. And even if they succeed in doing that, the Embassy has been experiencing the same prolonged delays in issuing British visas for their new staff members, causing them to be unable to arrive to take up their posts.

The Embassy also incurs substantial financial losses by paying rent for apartments of our staff while they are sitting vacant. Their would-be occupants unable to get diplomatic visas.

The Russian Embassy says that the British authorities, in no uncertain terms have told them that this is their consolidated position, and the intent is to degrade the ability of the Russian Embassy to function as an effective diplomatic mission.

Such action, as well as being illegal under international law, is clearly aimed at diminishing and limiting the Russian diplomatic presence in the UK and a deliberate attempt by the UK to hamper Russian diplomatic work, in clear violation of the Vienna Convention of 1961.

Such an obvious attempt by the British government to wreck – on purpose – the established international order may prove to be a dangerous gamble by the UK in respect of the Russian diplomatic and consular missions. Such action by the UK will undoubtedly sour relations between the UK and Russia.

Other foreign diplomatic missions to the UK may like to take note of what the UK is doing to Russia here. The UK has has difficult relationships with a number of other countries; how long before they start to quietly expel diplomats of countries without just cause and in contravention of international law?

This is all the more noteworthy at this time as Russia is again looking at ways to relax the rules for people getting visas to Russia.

For me that can’t come fast enough, as I am one of many who has not visited Russia this year due to the onerous extra requirements of biometrics involving personal travel to London each and every time.

The current visa regime for Brits to get a visa to Russia needs swift and radical overhaul. It is unfair to subject ordinary travellers to Russia – many with family members in Russia and/or married to nationals – to extra bureaucracy simply as tit-for-tat because our government happens to be extremely foolish.

Russia could use this diplomatic crisis to overhaul the visa system for Brits and demonstrate to the UK that they are bigger than petty squabbles like this.

As a voting Brit, I would urge the UK government to abandon this pettiness, adhere to the Vienna Convention, and let the Russian diplomats back into the UK. Continue reading

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Russia Should Abolish Visas for the EU, America and the Developed World. Top Russian Official Agrees.

If Western sanctions against Russia are to continue, Russia is in a unique position to take advantage of the situation by relaxing visa rules and welcoming tourists.

Right now, you can get almost twice as many roubles for your money as you could a year ago. This makes Russia cheaper to visit than it ever was.

However, the current onerous requirements and unnecessary bureaucracy to obtain a visa to Russia has been holding Russian tourism back for many years. The current visa system is inconsistent, inconvenient, and puts many people off travelling to Russia. Visa registration once in-country, differs across Russia and can also prove cumbersome and problematical.

Oleg Safonov, head of Rosturism, the Russian Federal Tourism Agency agrees. He proposes to scrap the lot.

Safonov’s latest proposals, as reported on Interfax, include electronic visas, visas on arrival and simplification of the registration process. Travellers to Russia will very much welcome the moves, if implemented. Russia is a little late to the party with this; they should have done it years ago.

Russia already allows visa-free entry to citizens of some countries. But they are not the countries that significant tourism revenue is derived from. Rosturism recently announced that the number of foreign tourists coming to Russia grew in 2015 by 16.5 percent. Chinese tourists account for most of that growth to date. Russia now has an eye on increasing tourism from the rest of the world.

Readers of this site will be aware of the constant hysterical warmongering and hyperbole that Western politicians and their cohorts in the pliant mainstream media churn out day after day. One of the best ways to counter this misinformation war waged by the West is to allow people to easily visit Russia and see what it is like for themselves.

And who doesn’t want a selfie on Red Square?

Only when more people begin to visit Russia will the skewed perception of Russia abroad change. Visitors will see that much of what they read and hear in their local media is patently false and concocted for purely political reasons.

Relaxing visa restrictions means easy travel, especially for Europeans who are only a budget flight away. Over time, more contact between Europeans and Russians will improve political relations. It is hard for politicians to sell us lies about places we have actually been to. Western media will then find it harder to recycle the ludicrous US State Department propaganda we see daily in our newspapers now.

If Russia is to develop the tourism industry it tells us it wants, things need to change faster. Instead of occasionally tinkering around the edges of the visa system to allow for sporting events and cruise arrivals to specified ports with a host of conditions, it is time Russia’s visa system had root and branch reform.

Tourist visas could easily be issued on arrival; fingerprints could be taken at the same time. Invitations and registration need to be scrapped altogether. They are relics of the Cold War and serve little practical purpose today. An online visa waiver system, similar to what the US uses would work far better. Oleg Safonov from Rosturism gets this.

If Russia is going to have wider appeal to tourists, the visa system needs urgent radical reform. It will be impossible for destinations such as Sochi and Crimea to become popular with nearby Europeans if obstacles in the form of the current visa system remain in place.

The time for Russia to act is now. The rouble is currently good value for foreigners. Let people come and spend their money in Russia. Continue reading

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Russia Considering Overdue Changes to the Current Visa System

Russia Considering Overdue Changes to the Current Visa System Oleg Safonov, the head of Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency, has proposed simplifying the visa regime for foreign tourists coming to Russia. The current onerous requirements and unnecessary bureaucracy in place to obtain … Continue reading

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