Kosovars fume at new delay in accessing EU visa-free travel | News

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The European Union’s delay in allowing visa-free travel for the people of Kosovo has spread dismay and resentment in the continent’s newest state, and one Pristina businessman has retaliated by hitting EU officials where it hurts — the stomach.

Mama’s restaurant owner Shpetim Pevqeli, 50, who has catered for more than a decade to employees at the EU’s rule of law mission headquarters across the road, put up a sign Tuesday reading: “Protest, no entry, for EU citizens without visa.”

While that may seem no more than a stunt, frustration among Kosovars over the delay in getting into the 27-nation bloc’s so-called Schengen visa-free travel area is real. As things are, they have to wait for hours to apply for a visa to the EU, where many have family members living.

“I have an official invitation from Austria. But I have been waiting and waiting and waiting. What can I do next?” said an angry Faik Ibriqi, 60, queueing at the Swiss diplomatic representation office where many Kosovars apply for the Schengen visa.

Last week Kosovars had hoped that EU leaders meeting to discuss, among other things, their country’s accession prospects would rule on the matter. But it was not discussed.

In July 2018 Kosovo fulfilled all required visa liberalization benchmarks. Both the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, and the European Parliament have called for it to join the visa-free regime.

It doesn’t help that five EU member countries have not even recognized Kosovo as a country. Pristina declared independence in 2008, following its de facto secession from Serbia after a war in 1998-1999.

When they still lived in a province in the former Yugoslavia Kosovars, who are mostly ethnic Albanians, were free to move everywhere. Now some of them turn to neighboring Albania — which has Schengen access — to get a passport.

“Someone wants to go to his aunt, or his brother (in the EU) and when we learnt (there was no EU decision) again we were desperate, humiliated and that’s where the idea came from” for the ban on EU employees, said Pevqeli, the restaurant owner.

“We need to do something, a protest because (the visa situation) is not right and the protest will show our rancor, our despair,” he added.

Last week a disillusioned Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said peace and stability in Europe were inconceivable without integrating Western Balkan nations.

“Kosovo people want more possibilities and progress. They want a no-visa regime to see, feel and live in Europe,” she said, adding that Kosovo citizens “remain isolated at the heart of the continent where they live.”

Kosovo lost more than 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, during the 1998-1999 fight to break away from Serbia. It ended after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign forced Serbia to pull its troops out and cede control to the United Nations and NATO.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. The United States and most of the West recognize Kosovo’s independence, but Serbia — supported by allies Russia and China — does not.

Pevqeli said he was confident no EU officials would be coming to eat. “They will understand the sign is for them and they do respect that,” he said.

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

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Foreign Office changes advice on passport rules for EU travel

The Foreign Office has finally changed its advice on passport validity for travel to the EU after dozens of airline passengers were wrongly told they couldn’t fly.

Officials have changed the wording of travel advice to bring it into line with the European Commission.

It comes after The Independent reported the plight of passengers wrongly turned away at check-in by airlines because of the discrepancy.

The advice for Spain has been changed to tell UK travellers their passport must be:

  • Issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the “date of issue”)
  • Valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave (check the “expiry date”)

Advice on France, Italy and other EU and wider Schengen destinations is expected to be updated shortly.

Previously the FCDO travel advice for countries in the European Union and Schengen Area included the misleading statement: “For some Schengen countries your passport may need to be less than 10 years old during your whole visit, and the three months at the end of your visit may need to be within 10 years of your passport’s issue date.”

The Independent made its own enquiries and received official confirmation correspondence from the European Commission last November.

On 10 November 2021, the correspondence was passed on to the Foreign Office with a request “to ensure that all communications from the UK government recognise the correct European Union position”.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “FCDO travel advice is kept under constant review to ensure British travellers are aware of the risks and have accurate information to help plan their trip.

“We welcome that the European Commission is now updating its guidance in regards to their rules affecting some UK passports”

The ambivalence in the UK government position has caused widespread confusion and distress.

It has also put extra pressure on HM Passport Office, with many travellers seeking early renewal of passports that were perfectly valid for travel to Europe.

Airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair previously used the Foreign Office travel advice as grounds for denying boarding to passengers who were perfectly entitled to travel. All the major airlines are now aligned with the European Commission rules; Ryanair was the last to fall into line.

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EU removes mask mandate advice for air travel

The EU is removing the recommendation that face masks should be mandatory at airports and onboard aircraft as the Covid-19 crisis continues to ease.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) issued a joint statement on Wednesday (11 May) announcing the relaxation of the Aviation Health Safety Protocol on mask-wearing for air travel from 16 May.

However, the two agencies noted that wearing a mask is “still one of the best protections against the transmission of Covid-19”.

They have also relaxed some of the “more stringent” measures placed on airline operations, which the agencies said would “relieve the burden on the industry whilst still keeping appropriate measures in place”.

EASA executive director Patrick Ky added: “For many passengers and also aircrew members there is a strong desire for masks to no longer be a mandatory part of air travel. We are now at the start of that process. 

“Passengers should continue to comply with the requirements of their airline and, where preventive measures are optional, make responsible decisions and respect the choice of other passengers.”

ECDC director Andrea Ammon warned that risks “remain” for travellers despite the withdrawal of the recommendation on wearing masks.

“It is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene, it [wearing masks] is one of the best methods of reducing transmission,” said Ammon. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

IATA’s director general Willie Walsh welcomed the move as “another important step along the road back to normality” for airline passengers.

“Travellers can look forward to freedom of choice on whether to wear a mask and they can travel with confidence knowing that many features of the aircraft cabin, such as high frequency air exchange and high efficiency filters, make it one of the safest indoor environments,” added Walsh.

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EU lifts mask requirement for air travel as pandemic ebbs

BERLIN (AP) — The European Union will no longer require masks to be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, authorities said Wednesday.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it hoped the joint decision, made with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, would mark “a big step forward in the normalization of air travel” for passengers and crews.

The new guideline “takes account of the latest developments in the pandemic, in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, and the accompanying lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries,” the two agencies said in a joint statement.

“Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said. “And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”

While the new recommendations take effect on May 16, rules for masks may still vary by airline beyond that date if they fly to or from destinations where the rules are different.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control director Andrea Ammon said washing hands and social distancing should still be practiced, but airport operators are advised not to impose distancing requirements if these are likely to lead to a bottleneck.

The agencies also recommended that airlines keep systems for collecting passenger locator information on standby in case they are needed in future, for example if a new dangerous variant emerges.

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Indians travelling without Schengen visa can’t fly to UK on EU carriers

Indians travelling without Schengen visa can’t fly to UK on EU carriers

Indians travelling to the United Kingdom on European Union (EU) carriers like Air France, Lufthansa, and KLM by transiting via these airlines’ hubs at Paris, Frankfurt/Munich, and Amsterdam, are being denied boarding at the origin in India if they don’t have a transit/regular Schengen visa. As per the reports, the reason behind this is that post-Brexit, the EU has decided to ‘punish’ the United Kingdom by insisting that non-EU citizens will need to have a transit Schengen visa to fly to the United Kingdom on transit flights of its carriers.

Reports have it that interestingly, Switzerland, which is not a part of the EU, has been spared of this rule for its airline Swiss. As such, people travelling going from India to the UK on one-stop flights can do so via places like Switzerland and the Gulf, without requiring a transit visa for these places.

Schengen visa is a short-term visa that lets its holders travel freely throughout the Schengen area, which covers around 26 EU countries or ‘Schengen States’ without border controls between them.

If reports are to go by, non-EU citizens can, however, fly to the UK without a transit or regular Schengen visa only through non-stop flights or by one stop flights only through Gulf countries or Switzerland.

As per the airline officials, the updated change has been in place since the middle of the pandemic from January 1, 2021. And during that time, India had a bubble system for international connectivity with stringent conditions on which nationalities were able to travel by taking one-stops. So at that time, travel between the UN and India happened mainly on direct flights or via places that did not strictly follow the no-transit rule for Indian travellers.

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Which COVID-19 rules apply when you travel between EU countries?

Which COVID rules apply to me in Spain, France and the Netherlands? When I travel between those countries, do I need to follow the rules for travellers from Australia, or the rules for EU travellers? J. Shrubb, Turramurra NSW

Make sure you comply with the more stringent rules that apply to travellers coming from Australia. The distinction is made to separate travellers who live within the EU from those who do not. Those from the EU will usually have the EU digital certificate, and easier access, but that certificate is not available to anyone vaccinated in Australia.

My husband and I have a week to drive from Rome to Florence, preferably through less touristy regions and sampling the local food, wines and culture. K. Lee, Brighton VIC

You might start with the fortified medieval hilltown of Spello, which rises from olive groves in the province of Umbria. Compact and pedestrian friendly, Spello is large enough to have a good choice of cafes and a couple of great enotecas where you can taste local specialties including the excellent olive oil and wines. There are some fine walks from here, including along the pilgrim trails that join Assisi with Rome, now being revitalised by modern-day pilgrims. You might even spend a day out truffle hunting with locals from the village of Pettino [wildfoodsitaly.com]. You’re within a one-hour drive of other classic towns and cities including Assisi, Perugia, Gubbio and Orvieto. On the far side of the Clitunno Valley, Montefalco is the home of the full-bodied Sagrantino grape.

Next stop, Arezzo, a great Tuscan city that gets far fewer visitors than it deserves. Highlights include the Cappella Baci inside the Basilica of San Francesco, site of Piero Della Francesca’s fresco cycle of the Legend of the True Cross, the Archaeological Museum, the wonderful Piazza Grande and a medieval abbey, Badia delle Sante Flora e Lucilla. Arezzo is also a fine place to sample genuine Tuscan cooking rather than the tourist version. Try the family-run Antica Osteria Agania.

I’m hiring a car in the USA and I need full collision damage waiver and theft protection but my travel insurance policy provides only limited cover for both. Adding the cost of full insurance cover from the car hire operator is going to cost a bomb. G. Costa, Roseville NSW

Rental Car Protection [rentalcarprotection.com.au] provides the service you’re looking for. Full insurance cover for a two-week car hire in the USA or Canada in April will cost just over $200. You can reduce the premium further by adding a voluntary excess contribution of a few hundred dollars. Given that full insurance purchased at the car-hire desk will add between US$20-30 per day to the cost, you’ve got money in your pocket. In Europe, where the damage liability fee payable by the hirer in the event of loss or damage is lower, the same cover from Rental Car Protection for the same period will cost only about half as much.

We’re planning to fly into Paris, stay two nights and head to London for a three-week UK self-drive tour. Any suggestions for our stay in Paris and our trip to Great Britain where we might visit Scotland and Ireland? B. Peppard, Coffs Harbour NSW

Two nights in Paris – quelle horreur – that’s just one full day in one of our most beautiful, fascinating and culturally rich cities. Sacrifice a few more days from your UK/Ireland itinerary, you won’t regret it.

Start with a Batobus [batobus.com] cruise along the Seine, with nine stops where you can hop off and explore before re-boarding. I like to do walking tours with locals and there are several websites to help you such as With Locals [withlocals.com] and Tours by Locals [toursbylocals.com]. Allow time for wandering, the Ile Saint-Louis, the Marais, Rue Mouffetard on the Left Bank, Luxembourg Gardens and the Canal St Martin are perfect.

After Paris you’ve enough time for Britain and either Scotland or Ireland but not both. One route would be west from London to Oxford, west again to Bath followed by a slow journey through the Cotswolds and into the Lake District.

In Scotland, start from Edinburgh and take the Fife Coastal Route to Dundee [visitscotland.com], continue to Aberdeen and take the Highland Tourist Route north to Inverness, turn south-west along the shores of Loch Ness to Fort William and pick up the Argyll Coastal Route which ends on the shores of Loch Lomond, just a short drive from Glasgow.

Got a travel question? Include your name and suburb or town and send it to:


Michael’s tip

Google Translate is the must-have app for those places where you just can’t get your tongue around the local lingo, and it’s improved out of sight over the years. Go to “settings” and you can download a language for those times when there’s no data connection.

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Poland, EU leaders going to Kyiv, meet Zelenskyy


Leaders of Poland, Czech Republic and Slovenia are traveling to Kyiv on a European Union mission Tuesday to show support for Ukraine.

“Europe must guarantee Ukraine’s independence and ensure that it is ready to help in Ukraine’s reconstruction,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a tweet Tuesday announcing the trip.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Russian troops in an online video early Tuesday that they can surrender and will be treated “decently” and pleaded with European nations to provide his military with more weapons.

“On behalf of the Ukrainian people, I give you a chance,” Zelenskyy said in a video translated into English by his office, ahead of his scheduled speech to Canada’s parliament on Tuesday. “Chance to survive. If you surrender to our forces, we will treat you the way people are supposed to be treated. As people, decently.”

Zelenskyy also told northern European leaders that they could “help yourself by helping us.” Zelenskyy, speaking to leaders of the Joint Expeditionary Force via videolink, said the Ukrainian military is rapidly using up weapons and other hardware obtained from the West.

Talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations were expected to resume via teleconference Tuesday, the president said. Talks were halted Monday for a “technical pause,” according to one of Zelenskyy’s advisers. Three previous rounds of talks held in Belarus provided little progress, but both sides expressed optimism ahead of this week’s negotiations.

THE NEWS COMES TO YOU:  Get updates on the situation in Ukraine. Sign up here. 

LATEST MOVEMENT: Mapping and tracking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

FULL COVERAGE: Latest updates, analysis, commentary on Ukraine 

Latest developments:

►A humanitarian disaster is unfolding in Izium, an eastern city of 46,000 people, Deputy Mayor Volodymyr Matsokin said. The city lacks basic supplies, and extensive Russian shelling has severely damaged infrastructure, he said.

►Mariupol City Council says 2,000 civilian vehicles have left the besieged city through a so-called humanitarian corridor. Another 2,000 cars were waiting to exit along the evacuation route.

►The British government says it will raise import duties on vodka and other Russian products and ban the export of luxury goods to Russia.

►Multiple demonstrations by Ukrainians against Russian occupation have occurred over the last several days in the cities of Kherson, Melitopol and Berdyansk, according to the British Defense Ministry.

► More than 2.9 million Ukrainians have fled the country, the U.N. refugee agency said. Over 1.7 million of them exited through Poland.

A news anchor was speaking on Russian state TV when a woman appeared on camera behind her holding a sign with “no war” scrawled in English and a message warning people not to believe Russian propaganda.

An independent human rights group identified the woman as Marina Ovsyannikova. The group, OVD-Info, posted on its website that Ovsyannikova, who identified herself as an employee of the station, was taken into police custody.

Speaking in a video address early Tuesday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Russians “who do not stop trying to convey the truth, real facts … And personally to the woman who entered the studio of Channel One with a poster against the war.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was traveling to Brussels on Tuesday for a meeting of NATO’s defense ministers that will focus on bolstering the alliance’s eastern front following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Austin then is scheduled to visit senior civilian and military leaders in Slovakia and Bulgaria, according to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.

The NATO meeting comes after the Russia’s cruise-missile attack Sunday on the Yavoriv military training base in western Ukraine. The attack killed at least 35 people and occurred not far from the border with Poland, a NATO ally. President Joe Biden and other senior officials have pledged to respond to any Russian attack that spills into NATO’s territory.

Tom Vanden Brook

Preliminary losses from Russia’s military actions in Ukraine are already estimated at $500 billion – and the damage grows worse every day, Minister of Finance Serhiy Marchenko said Tuesday. Supply chains have been broken, some businesses destroyed and others left unable to function because their workers have fled, Marchenko said. The true cost of the war won’t be determined until it’s over, he said. The International Monetary Fund, which has approved $1.4 billion in emergency financing for Ukraine, said this week that the country’s economic output could shrink by up to 35% if the war drags on.

Marchenko said some of the hundreds of billions in Russian assets frozen in the U.S. and Europe could be tapped to help his country rebuild.

Fox News journalist Benjamin Hall was injured in Ukraine on Monday while reporting on the Russian invasion, the network said. Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said in a statement that the network had “minimal level of details right now” but that Hall had been hospitalized. Hall, a father of three, has been reporting from Kyiv, Scott said.

“We will update everyone as we know more,” Scott said. “Please keep Ben and his family in your prayers.”

On Sunday, American photojournalist Brent Renaud was killed and another journalist was wounded in Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv.


Zelenskyy calls Russian attack on US journalists ‘deliberate’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the attack that killed American journalist Brent Renaud and injured his colleague a “deliberate attack.”

Associated Press, USA TODAY

China’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “impartial and constructive” while the U.S. has been “immoral and irresponsible” by spreading misinformation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Tuesday.

Lijan accused the U.S. of spreading misinformation over reports Beijing had agreed to a Russian request for military supplies. Lijan also said the U.S. played a major role in the development of the crisis, a reference to NATO expansion.

Lijan spoke at a press briefing on day after Yang Jiechi, one of China’s top diplomats, met with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Yang called on the international community to support peace talks and that “China always stands for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to confirm whether U.S. officials believe Beijing has conveyed its support for Moscow’s assault on Ukraine but said the U.S. is watching very closely whether China or any other country is providing any form of support including material, economic or financial assistance.

The White House is considering for President Joe Biden to travel to Europe in support of Ukraine and allies in the coming weeks, according to multiple media reports. The discussions have included considering Biden stopping in Brussels, home to NATO and the European Union, according to the reports from NBC News, Politico and Reuters. In addition, there are talks of Biden visiting Poland after a stop in Brussels, Reuters said.

Any potential trip would come after Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Poland and Romania last week. The aim of her trip was to show unity among NATO allies amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

Biden has traveled abroad twice during his administration, both times in Europe. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday would not confirm the president’s potential travel plans or preview what the trip may entail.

“There’s not been any final decision about a trip,” Psaki said. “So I don’t have anything to preview about what that would look like if you were to take a trip.”

– Rebecca Morin 

KRAKOW, Poland — After a deadly Russian missile attack in Ukraine just 15 miles from the Polish border Sunday, some Poles are increasingly anxious – saving money, checking to see whether their passports are up to date and making plans to flee if war spills over to their country.

“I said to my husband, ‘If only one bomb touches Polish ground, I will pack myself, pack my grandma, pack my mom, and we are going abroad,’” local artist Aga Gaj said.

Poles are nervous following a Russian airstrike that killed 35 and injured at least 100 at a military base where Americans had trained Ukrainian forces before the war. The United States and NATO have regularly sent instructors to the base, known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Center. Just weeks before the war began, Florida National Guard members trained there. Read more here.

– Katelyn Ferral, USA TODAY Network

Contributing: The Associated Press

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EU Sees Significant Tourism Recovery in 2021

As COVID-19 conditions around the world continue to fluctuate unpredictably, tourism is still the sector facing the most challenges in terms of achieving full recovery from the effects of the pandemic. Nonetheless, there are significant signs of progress emerging at this stage.

Eurostat, the European Union’s (E.U.) statistics office, today published some of its findings taken from early tourism estimates from last year. They revealed that tourism in the E.U. during 2021 improved overall (in terms of the number of nights people spent in short-stay accommodations), the figures still fell short of those from pre-pandemic years.


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During December 2021, the number of nights tourists spent in E.U. short-stay accommodations grew by 237 percent to 102.2 million—more than tripling the number of nights recorded in the same month of 2020. But, when Eurostat held the 2021 figures up against those from 2019, they still fell short by 27 percent.

Results for the entire year showed the number of nights tourists spent in E.U. short-stay accommodations reached 1.8 billion, representing a 27 percent rise over the previous year and reaching two-thirds of 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.

The full-year numbers for 2021 showed notable improvement over 2020 when looking at the E.U.’s as a whole, with 21 out of 24 member states registering positive trends over the year prior. At the E.U.-wide level, the bloc performed at around 63 percent of 2019’s pre-COVID levels last year.

Heavily tourism-focused countries that adopted less severe entry restrictions (and did so for shorter durations), led the rebound, with Spain, Greece and Croatia each up by more than 70 percent over 2020.

Only Austria, Latvia and Slovakia saw the number of tourist accommodations nights in 2021 decline even further than they did the previous year, falling more than 18 percent past their 2020 levels.

The agency found that Latvia, Slovakia, Malta and Hungary were the nations that were most affected by the pandemic n 2021, with their numbers coming in at less than 50 percent of what they’d been in 2019. Denmark and the Netherlands, on the other hand, lost out by less than 20 percent of 2019 levels.

According to U.S. News & World Report, domestic tourists in their respective E.U. member states represented 68 percent of the nights spent in short-stay accommodations, while visitors from other nations within the E.U. accounted for 24 percent. Five percent of the remaining portion came from other European countries outside the bloc, and the rest of the world contributed only three percent.

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Switzerland will forego “Swiss neutrality” and adopt same sanctions as EU against Russia

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis delivers a speech at the opening of a session of the UN Human Rights Council on February 28, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Swiss President Ignazio Cassis delivers a speech at the opening of a session of the UN Human Rights Council on February 28, in Geneva, Switzerland. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Switzerland has announced that it will forego its commitment to “Swiss neutrality” in favor of adopting sanctions against Russia, Swiss Federal President Ignazio Cassis said Monday, adding that Switzerland’s sanctions will be in line with those already adopted by the European Union. 

“The Swiss Federal Council has decided today to fully adopt EU sanctions,” Cassis said during a news briefing. “It is an unparalleled action of Switzerland, who has always stayed neutral before.”

“Russia’s attack is an attack on freedom, an attack on democracy, an attack on the civil population, and an attack on the institutions of a free country. This cannot be accepted regarding international law, this cannot be accepted politically, and this cannot be accepted morally,” Cassis added. 

Speaking after an extraordinary meeting of the Swiss Federal Council, Cassis stressed that “in these dark days,” Switzerland stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and hopes that sanctions will encourage the Kremlin to “change its mind.”

“To play into the hands of an aggressor is not neutral. Having signed the Geneva convention of human rights, we are bound to humanitarian order,” Cassis said. “Other democracies shall be able to rely on Switzerland; those standing for international law shall be able to rely on Switzerland; states that uphold human rights shall be able to rely on Switzerland.”

Switzerland will freeze the assets of “listed persons” and will also bring into force an entry ban for those highlighted by the EU’s packet of sanctions, according to the Swiss Federal President.

Cassis said that Switzerland was closing its airspace to all flights from Russia, including private jets, with the exception of humanitarian flights, search flights and emergency situations. 

Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said entry ban will impact “oligarchs of Russian or Ukrainian nationality who are particularly close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

“These are five persons with strong economic connections into Switzerland,” Keller-Sutter highlighted, but said because of privacy reasons, she was not naming those oligarchs.

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Answering questions about vaccination records, EU pet passports and how to find dog-friendly restaurants

Your pet travel primer: Answering questions about vaccination records, EU pet passports and how to find dog-friendly restaurants

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