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UKRAINE

Flight bans to visas – what does the EU’s Ukraine response mean for Spain?

Over the weekend the EU agreed to a further package of measures in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. From flight bans to entry rules and financial sanctions, here's how these will apply to those who are in Spain or want to come here.

Flight bans to visas – what does the EU’s Ukraine response mean for Spain?
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy give a joint press statement on further measures to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the European Commission in Brussels on February 27, 2022. (Photo by Stephanie LECOCQ / POOL / AFP)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced further measures on Sunday, adding more pressure on Russia on top of previous economic sanctions in response to their invasion of Ukraine.

Her full statement did not go into much detail on exactly how the new rules will apply. 

It’s likely that there will be further clarifications in the days to come, but here’s what we know so far;

Visa rules

EU member states will discuss on Monday using a little-known rule called the Temporary Protection Directive to allow Ukrainians to stay within the Bloc for up to a year without a visa. 

Since 2017, Ukrainians have benefited from the 90-day rule, which means they can spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa.

“We need to be prepared for day 91,” EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Sunday.

This change would not affect entry to the Bloc – the 90-day rule means that Ukrainians can already enter without having to show a visa – but once here they would not be required to make an application for asylum.

Ursula von der Leyen said: “We welcome with open arms those Ukrainians who have to flee from Putin’s bombs and I am proud of the warm welcome that Europeans have given them.

“We are mobilising every effort and every euro to support our Eastern Member States – to host and take care of these refugees.”

Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said on Sunday that his administration is fully committed to welcoming Ukrainian refugees to Spain.

For years children from Chernobyl have spent summers and Christmases with families in Spain thanks to NGO schemes that also exist for minors from Western Sahara. Many of these same Spanish families are now calling for a safe travel corridor to bring the children to Spain so they can house them permanently or until the conflict ends.  

Flight ban

Russian-owned, Russian-controlled or Russian-registered planes are now barred from all EU airspace, including the airspace over Spain. They will not be able to take off or land anywhere in the EU, or fly over EU airspace. This includes commercial airlines and private jets.

READ MORE: Spain joins allies in closing airspace to Russian planes

All flight connections between Spain and the Ukraine have been cancelled, and Ukraine has also closed its airspace.

There is, however, no travel ban on Russia, so people can still travel between Spain and Russia on either a non-Russian airline or by road, rail or sea. 

Spain’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday said it recommended that travellers delay non-essential travel to Russia and asked Spanish residents in Russia to stay informed about the conflict in Ukraine.

Spain’s Covid-related travel rules are still in place meaning that as non-EU nationals tourists from Russia must be fully vaccinated in order to travel to Spain, although Spain does not recognise the Sputnik vaccine.  

 

SWIFT/Russian central bank sanctions

If you have any financial dealings with organisations or individuals in Russia, these could become difficult in the coming days. 

The EU has agreed to disconnect Russia from the Swift network, which is a communications network used for making international money transfers, and von der Leyen also announced sanctions on Russia’s central bank 

Shipping ban 

If you have recently ordered anything from Russia you may find there are delivery issues even if your payment goes through without problems. 

Economic sanctions mean that certain cargo from Russia can be seized or blocked from entering the EU. 

Spain has also proposed that European ports be completely closed to Russian ships as well as for companies with capital in the eastern superpower.

Russia Today ban

The EU has also banned Russian state media outlets including Russia Today (RT), Sputnik and their subsidiaries. Exactly how this will work is not yet clear, with Von der Leyen announcing that the EU is “developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe”.

Both RT and Sputnik have Spanish-language versions.

Asset seizures

The Spanish government hasn’t published stats on the Russian oligarchs that live or have assets in Spain, nor have they announced any sanctions aimed at them as the United Kingdom and the United States have done.

However, the EU has proposed sanctions on Russia’s wealthiest tycoons so it may be only a matter of days before ‘oligarcas’ in Spain feel the pinch.  

Among the most notable assets that Russian millionaires own in Spain are mega-yachts docked in Barcelona, Marbella and other upmarket coastal locations, as well thousands of mansions in exclusive locations. 

Roman Abramovich and Vladimir Putin himself, as well as several other oligarchs, are reported to have ordered their exclusive yachts to be moved from the Spanish ports where they were docked in recent days due to fears that they will soon be seized by Spanish police.

Russian and Chinese nationals make up the bulk of foreign luxury buyers in Spain, as the acquisition of a home worth €500,000+ gives them access to EU residency through the so-called golden visa scheme.

READ ALSO: How much influence does Russia have over Spain?

Price rises

Previously announced economic sanctions on Russia are likely to lead to price rises throughout Europe, particularly for oil, gas and petrol. 

A meeting of EU energy ministers on Monday is going to look at ways of controlling price rises. 

READ ALSO: How Spain could be impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Thanks to the fact that Spain gets most of its natural gas from Algeria, the country is less reliant than other EU countries on Russian gas, but it does import a large amount of maize and other grain from Ukraine.

In February 2022, an already high inflation rate reached 7.4 percent in Spain, the highest level in 33 years. This, combined with the crisis unfolding in Ukraine, will impact the price of food, non-alcoholic drinks and fuel in particular, economists say.

Eurovision

And if you’re a Eurovision fan, don’t expect to see a Russian entry at the contest in May, the European Broadcasting Commission has announced that Russia is barred from the 2022 event.

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SPANISH POLITICS

Spain’s PM sent booby-trapped letter as more explosives detected

Pedro Sánchez received a booby-trapped letter last week which was "similar" to one which exploded Wednesday at Ukraine's embassy in Madrid, whilst two other explosive packages have been sent to other key locations in Spain.

Spain's PM sent booby-trapped letter as more explosives detected

Security staff carried out a “controlled explosion” of the mailed item, whose “content was similar” to that found in other letters sent to the Ukrainian embassy, an air force base, the defence ministry and a military equipment firm.

The envelope, “containing pyrotechnic material” and addressed to Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, arrived by regular mail on November 24th, the interior ministry said in a statement.

On Wednesday the security officer at Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid lightly injured his hand while opening a letter bomb addressed to the Ukrainian ambassador, prompting Kyiv to boost security at its embassies worldwide.

Spain’s High Court has opened a probe for a possible case of terrorism.

Later in the evening, a second “suspicious postal shipment” was intercepted at the headquarters of military equipment firm Instalaza in the northeastern city of Zaragoza, the interior ministry said.

Experts carried out a controlled explosion of that mailed item as well.

Instalaza makes the grenade launchers that Spain donates to Ukraine.

Earlier Thursday, security forces also detected a “suspect envelope” at an air base in Torrejón de Ardoz outside of Madrid which is regularly used to send weapons donated by Spain to Ukraine.

Police were called to the base “to secure the area and investigators are analysing this envelope” which was addressed to the base’s satellite centre, the interior ministry said.

“Both the characteristics of the envelopes and their content are similar in the four cases,” it said in a statement, adding police had informed the National Court of the four incidents.

A fifth envelope with “explosive” arrived at the defence ministry in Madrid on Thursday morning, a defence ministry source told AFP.

Experts blew up the package at the ministry, the source added.

‘Terrorist methods’

Ukraine’s ambassador to Spain, Serhii Pohoreltsev, appeared to blame Russia for the letter bomb that arrived at the embassy.

“We are well aware of the terrorist methods of the aggressor country,” he said during an interview late Wednesday with Spanish public television.

“Russia’s methods and attacks require us to be ready for any kind of incident, provocation or attack,” he added.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba ordered the strengthening of security at all Ukrainian embassies, the country’s foreign ministry spokesperson said Wednesday after the letter bomb went off at the embassy in Madrid.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February in what it calls a “special military operation”, which Kyiv and the West describe as an unprovoked land grab.

In addition to sending arms to help Ukraine, Spain is training Ukrainian troops as part of a European Union programme.

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