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    Comment on proposals for bans on EU visas for Russians

    It is being reported that the EU foreign ministers are expected to reach a consensus today on restrictions on visas for Russian travellers within the Schengen area, supposedly as a rebuke for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ministers are expected in most reports to make it more difficult for Russians travelling to the Schengen area to obtain visas, but to stop short of an outright visa ban, which some of the more extreme voices from Eastern and Central European and Baltic Member States have been demanding. Meanwhile, certain Irish MEPs have opportunistically sought publicity by joining the extremist chorus, calling for the Irish government to support an outright ban on visas for Russians.

    Either decision - to restrict or ban Russian visas - is a mistake. As the Financial Times makes clear in a Sunday editorial, visa bans would target civilians and affect civilians, not Russian officials.

    Though sanctions aimed at degrading Vladimir Putinโ€™s ability to wage his war have inevitably affected ordinary Russian people, they have not targeted them directly. Even bans on Russian planes entering EU airspace and on supplying parts for its aircraft aimed to weaken its economy, not keep Russians out. A visa ban is different, because it specifically targets civilians... Even moderate Russians might turn against the EU.
    It is unclear how visa restrictions are supposed to alter Russian government policy. The only arguments that are being made for doing this appeal to the idea that Russian civilians, having elected their government, bear collective responsibility for the invasion of Ukraine, and that they must therefore suffer for it. The Financial Times quotes an unnamed EU official that "[i]t is inappropriate for Russian tourists to stroll in our cities, on our marinas. We have to send a signal to the Russian population that this war is not OK, it is not acceptable."

    While it is not made explicit, the idea being outlined here - and in the calls by Eastern and Central European and Baltic politicians - is the idea of collective punishment, something which is not only widely accepted to be morally abhorrent, but is prohibited under international law. It is also difficult to fathom how confining Russians to the Russian Federation, where they are far less likely to meet other Europeans or encounter open criticism of their governmentโ€™s actions, โ€œsendsโ€ any โ€œsignalโ€ that the war in Ukraine is โ€œnot acceptable.โ€

    In reality, any move to interfere with visas for Russian citizens will send a very different signal. By separating or making life more difficult for millions of binational families, this proposal will alienate Russians who are friendly to the West, and confirm for them that the EU is Russophobic. This is by no means a niche view. It is shared by the governments of France and Germany, and even by Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned pro-Western opposition campaigner, whose words are normally seized upon by EU leaders, but now fall on deaf ears.

    The real motive for the calls for visa bans has nothing to do with stopping war in Ukraine, or trying to correct Russian policy. It is instead a transparently vindictive measure, driven by extremist political forces. It is a policy led by emotion, not by practicality or reason. It stands to entrench Russian public opinion behind the Kremlin's position, even as it feeds toxic nationalist fervour in Europe. It is vindictive, counterproductive and stupid. Irish politicians, knowing our own history, should be ashamed to support it.

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    ๐—ข๐—ณ๐—ณ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐—น ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ฏ๐˜† ๐—–๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐——๐—ฎ๐—น๐˜† ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐— ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ธ ๐—ช๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐˜€๐—ถ๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐—จ๐—ธ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฒ

    The attacks on Ukrainian targets and incursion of Russian forces into Ukraine are an act of aggression and a serious violation of the United Nations Charter. They have already resulted in loss of life. The pretexts President Vladimir Putin is using to justify his decision are contrary to international law and cannot be supported. Russian arguments about its security interests in the face of NATO expansion are valid and should be taken seriously, but they do not justify the decision Russia has now taken. We echo the call of the UN Secretary General Antรณnio Guterres: the conflict must stop now.
    ย 
    The only legitimate forum for addressing Russiaโ€™s actions at an international level is the United Nations. Unilateral action from the United States, the European Union, or NATO, only risks further escalation and the further erosion of international law and norms. There is no military solution for what is now happening. We oppose any military response just as unequivocally as we oppose Russia's actions. Russia must withdraw its troops from Ukraine, immediately cease all military operations and resume diplomatic engagement. All parties must work to restore the Minsk process, as the only path to a peaceful resolution of conflict.
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    The responsibility for opening hostilities is solely with President Putin, but we do not withdraw a single of our longstanding criticisms of NATO brinkmanship and the recklessness of Western policy on Ukraine. Both Russia and the West bear responsibility for creating conditions of instability and confrontation in Ukraine in pursuit of their strategic and economic interests. Despite rhetoric, Europe has been no friend of Ukraine. The country has been used as a pawn, and Ukrainian lives have been treated as expendable. It is the first duty of the European anti-war movement to criticise the role of European and allied governments in fanning the flames of conflict, not governments over which it has little influence. In the months to come, it is all the more important that this duty is upheld.
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    Predictably, hawkish elements in government and in the press are now exploiting the crisis to attack the anti-war movement, to propagandise on behalf of NATO, and to undermine Irelandโ€™s policy of neutrality. The Irish public should draw the opposite lesson from what is happening. Ukraine, like Ireland, was once a neutral country. Its loss of neutrality, and its gradual alignment with NATO, is one of the reasons for Russian hostility. Irelandโ€™s strength on the international stage, as a neutral broker for peace in international institutions, is completely undermined by the Irish government aligning itself with belligerents in a geopolitical conflict. Ireland should learn the lesson of Ukraine and take immediate steps to restore its neutrality, by unilaterally withdrawing from EU common defence structures, putting an end to all NATO cooperation, and denying transit and use of its territory to all foreign militaries.
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    Clare Daly
    Mick Wallace

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    On the developments in Afghanistan

    While we watch the scenes from Afghanistan in horror, let's not forget that it was the invasion in 2001 that made all of this inevitable.
    This poem from Kevin Higgins, which was written just before the US went into Afghanistan, remembers the dangerous stupidity that gripped the West.
    It is important to learn from history. Never again.

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    Amnesty for Catalonian prisoners and exiles

    I was honoured today to stand shoulder to shoulder with exiled Catalan leaders and colleagues on the steps of the European Parliament, to present this letter signed by 250 parliamentarians demanding amnesty for Catalan prisoners and exiles. Spain must heed the call, end its repression, honour its democratic obligations and enter dialogue. #CatalanAmnesty https://www.eucatplatform.eu/letter-on-amnesty/

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    Second anniversary of Julian Assange's arrest

    Two years to the day since Julian #Assange was arrested and the US indictment he had always feared was finally unsealed. Two years in jail and counting, for the crime of telling the truth. #FreeAssangeNow.

    I recently spoke about this ongoing travesty, and the danger to us all.

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