On October 16, 2023, Russia restricted entry into its territory for Ukrainian citizens arriving in Russia from other countries. According to the decision of the Russian government, Ukrainian citizens can only pass through two checkpoints – Sheremetyevo Airport (Moscow, Russia) and the Ludonka checkpoint on the border with Latvia. The decision was based on security reasons. However, most likely, it is another manifestation of the policy of forced identification of Ukrainian citizens living in the territories of Ukraine temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation. First and foremost, these changes will impact Ukrainians who have left for third countries, have not obtained Russian passports, and have no other means of visiting their families in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine except by entering through Russia. The restrictions will also significantly affect those parents and guardians who may travel to the territory of the Russian Federation or to the occupied territories of Ukraine in order to return forcibly displaced or deported children. Officially, this group numbers nearly 20,000 children.
After Russia announced its decision to limit the entry of Ukrainian citizens from third countries to two checkpoints, it was reported that the Latvian government would close the only land crossing point designated by Russia (Ludonka border checkpoint). The reason is threats to national security due to increased passenger traffic due to the Russian decision to restrict entry into its territory. On the same date, Latvia also closed the Pededze border checkpoint.
The Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Latvia informed Ukrainians about the upcoming restrictions and urged them to refrain from traveling to the Russian Federation. However, they did not provide further guidance for Ukrainians with relatives in occupied areas or those seeking to bring forcibly deported children.
As representatives of organizations dedicated to protecting the rights of victims of armed aggression against Ukraine, we view the aggressor country’s decision to significantly and unjustifiably restrict entry for Ukrainian citizens from third countries as illegal. This decision appears to be aimed at further pressuring Ukrainians living under occupation and will have adverse effects on the residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, as well as on the return of Ukrainian children forcibly displaced to those territories or deported to the Russian Federation.
The decision of the Latvian authorities to close the only land border checkpoint open to Ukrainian citizens will deteriorate the plight of Ukrainians affected by the full-scale war. Starting on October 16, Ukrainians can only enter the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine through Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, Russia. This poses challenges due to high airfares and the restrictions on flights to Russia because of the full-scale war against Ukraine. Additionally, such flights are complicated by strict documentary requirements that Ukrainian citizens may not always meet.
These limitations would not only infringe on the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens but could also expedite the process of forced passportization, potentially leading to a social and humanitarian crisis.
We appeal to:
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to take all necessary diplomatic measures to communicate with the Latvian side regarding the adverse consequences of closing the border checkpoints in Pededze and Vientula. The aim is to ensure the rights of Ukrainian citizens to enter the Russian Federation and travel to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine for humanitarian purposes;
- The Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, requesting that they take all possible measures to protect the rights of Ukrainian citizens facing entry restrictions into the Russian Federation and the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. This should be done through negotiations and cooperation with national human rights institutions in the Russian Federation and Latvia, with the objective of resolving the situation and securing the entry of Ukrainian citizens into the Russian Federation and the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
We appeal to our international partners to assist in the unrestricted departure of Ukrainian citizens from the Russian Federation and their safe return to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine for humanitarian reasons.
October 17, 2023
Human Rights Center ZMINA
CF “Right to Protection”
NGO “Civil holding “GROUP OF INFLUENCE”
NGO “Donbas SOS”
CO “CF “Stabilization Support Services”
CF “VOSTOK SOS”
NGO “Crimea SOS”
CF “Helping to Leave”
Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group