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Germany to ease visa rules for at-risk Russians

May 30, 2022

Germany's Interior Ministry has said Russians who are "persecuted and threatened" will be offered protection as the war in Ukraine is accompanied by a domestic crackdown by the Kremlin on political opposition.

Anti-war protesters taken into custody in Moscow
Russia's war in Ukraine comes amid an intensifying domestic crackdown on civil society Image: Sefa Karacan/picture alliance

The German government agreed to an accelerated residence permit procedure for members of the political opposition, activists, and the media in Russia seeking protection from political persecution. 

"Russia's increasingly brutal aggression against Ukraine is accompanied by ever stronger internal repression, especially against the press, human rights activists and opposition figures," Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told the dpa news agency. 

"We will offer protection in Germany to Russians who are persecuted and threatened," she said.

Who is covered by the new rules?

The legal basis for the eased procedure is found in a clause of Germany's Residence Act, which covers admission "for reasons of international law or urgent humanitarian need" and "to safeguard the political interests of the Federal Republic of Germany."

Russian anti-war activist speaks to DW

The Interior Ministry said these criteria covered representatives of the democratic opposition in Russia who have taken a stand against the war in Ukraine, human rights campaigners and other representatives of civil society — especially those whose work has a connection to Germany.

Journalists critical of the Kremlin's policies in Russia who are facing danger, and whose work is being censored in Russia will also be given prioritized protection.

"We will give Russian journalists, in particular, the opportunity to report freely and independently from Germany," said Faeser. "The Kremlin is attempting to justify its criminal war with reprehensible lies, misrepresenting perpetrators as victims and distorting history."

"This shows the fundamental importance of free and independent reporting, that can still reach the Russian people," she said.

Scientists whose criticism of Russia's war on Ukraine means they "can no longer freely and independently carry out their work in Russia," are also eligible for the streamlined process, an Interior Ministry spokesperson said.

Independent journalism in Russia is dead: Gulnoza Said, Committee to Protect Journalists

How will the procedure work?

The new procedure calls for the Ministry of Culture and Media and the Foreign Ministry to decide on entry eligibility on an individual basis using the accelerated procedure.

This also includes a security and background check. If an application is successful, the German embassy would then issue a visa. Russians living in exile can also apply and, if accepted, receive a visa at German embassies in third countries.

The prerequisite for admission due to political persecution in Russia is an individual threat. 

People must "credibly prove their persecution in individual cases. How many Russians are involved here "cannot be reliably predicted," an Interior Ministry spokesman told the AFP news agency. Admission can also include close family members.

For Germany, affected people from Russia have so far generally only received a limited Schengen visa for a maximum of 90 days.

wmr/msh (dpa,AFP)

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