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Will Ukraine Allow Russian Opposition Candidate To Visit Crimea?
7 March, 2018
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She’s the only Russian presidential candidate who publicly refuses to recognize Crimea as part of Russia. But now Ksenia Sobchak has gone one step further by voicing her desire to visit the occupied peninsula. Through Ukraine.

“I sent a letter to the Ukrainian embassy,” Sobchak told Russia’s Echo Moskvy radio station on March 6, “If I do go to Crimea, it will only be via Ukraine. If they give me entry clearance, I will go there.”

Photo credit: EPA.com

This statement, which comes less than two weeks before Russia is scheduled to hold its presidential elections, did not remain uncommented upon in Ukraine. The Ukrainian embassy in Russia told UNIAN news agency that they never received such a letter, while Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin referred to Sobchak’s surprising move as “political schizophrenia.” Like many people in Ukraine, Klimkin believes that Sobchak is hoping to attract Crimean voters leading up to the elections on March 18.

“Of course, it’s a good thing that she wants to follow the Ukrainian laws for entering occupied Crimea,” Klimkin said on March 7. “But [acquiring] a legal entry clearance for carrying out an illegitimate [presidential] campaign for illegitimate elections on the occupied territory is [a form of] schizophrenia. A political one, of course.”

Klimkin also suggested that if she wants to speak with Crimean Tatars, she “needs to come to Kyiv and meet the Mejilis [community,] recognized by the entire world but banned in occupied Crimea.”

“I hope Mrs. Sobchak is on the civilized side of the world,” he added.

When asked by Echo Moskvy for a reason for her potential visit, Sobchak said she wants to speak to the different people who live there, especially the Crimean Tatars, “who have been sending me many letters.”

“I want to meet them, to speak to them about the problems they’ve been facing,” the opposition politician said.

Oddly enough, no Ukrainian state body has confirmed that they received this letter from Sobchak. Apart from the Ukrainian Embassy in Russia, Ukraine’s State Migration Service has also denied receiving such a letter, adding that if they do receive it, it will take five days to process the application.

Emine Japarova, Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister of Information Policy, said that Sobchak could possibly receive the entry clearance – but she needs to apply for it in person at one of the State Migration Service departments in Ukraine.

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“I am not sure whether Sobchak will want to go to Kyiv, for example, to register the application form personally,” she said, expressing her doubt.

However, Japarova added that in the event that Sobchak had previously visited Russia-annexed Crimea via Russia, not only she will not be able to enter Crimea legally; she will also risk being banned from entering Crimea for a period of five years.

Earlier Sobchak, who announced her desire to run for president on October 18, caused a stir in her country by writing that Russia’s annexation of Crimea has not been recognized by any global state.

“My father was one of the people who wrote the [Russian] Constitution. So I find it truly upsetting that we, as a state, don’t stick to the promises we made to our main neighbor,” Sobchak wrote on Facebook on October 25.

/By Maria Romanenko