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UKRAINE

Spain’s doors open to Russian citizens, foreign minister says

Spain's Foreign Minister has said that Russian citizens are welcome in Spain despite the EU's suspension of its visa agreement with Russia, as the mass exodus of thousands of people continues following Putin's conscription call.

Spain's doors open to Russian citizens, foreign minister says
Albares at a Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the EU Council building in Luxembourg on June 20, 2022. Photo: JOHN THYS/AFP

Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, has stated publicly that Spain’s doors are open to Russian citizens fleeing the country.

Speaking on Monday, Albares said that Spain is “totally favourable” to Russian citizens who “share our values.”

Speaking against the backdrop of mass protests in Russia against Putin’s mobilisation of thousands that has caused a mass exodus to the border, Albares reaffirmed that Spain is “aware that there are many people who do not want this war,” and that “Europe has nothing against Russian citizens.”

After the European Union suspended the visa agreement signed with Moscow at the beginning of September, he was keen to make clear that this did not mean Spain was closed to Russians fleeing Putin’s regime. “The decision was made not to block completely… [for] people who are opposing the war, the members of NGOs, the defenders of human rights, the journalists who are risking their lives…”

READ ALSO: Spain sends 200 tonnes of military material to Ukraine

In light of the visa suspension, Spain will return to a system of individual interviews on a case-by-case basis.

“It’s not that there is suddenly an avalanche of Russian citizens and we don’t know who is entering,” Albares said, quelling security fears, “that’s why it’s going to be analysed on a case-by-case basis.

“Those who speak our language, those who reach out to us, those who share our values have to have a place among us,” he added.

As for the illegal referendums the Russians are attempting to undertake in annexed territories, Albares aligned himself with his European colleagues and claimed that the results would not be recognised by Spain or any other EU member state. 

He also confirmed that a new set of economic sanctions is being put together in Brussels, and that “there is no real indication” Putin is considering the use of nuclear weapons or will stray from conventional war methods.

Spaniards should, he added, not be “distressed” about this possibility. 

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

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UKRAINE

‘More to offer’ than war: Ukrainian art on display at museum in Spain

Dozens of modern artworks removed from Kyiv to protect them from Russian strikes that have already done huge damage to Ukraine's cultural heritage will go on display at a Madrid 's Thyssen-Bornemisza museum on Tuesday.

'More to offer' than war: Ukrainian art on display at museum in Spain

The works on show at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum of Art as part of the “In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine 1900-1930” exhibition include oil paintings, sketches and collages.

Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza founded “Museums for Ukraine” which is seeking to showcase Ukrainian art, using the museum which houses her late father’s collection for the exhibition.

The Madrid exhibition is one of a number of showings of Ukraine’s cultural heritage across Europe, as well as an effort to raise awareness of the threat posed to the war-torn country’s artistic legacy as fighting grinds on.

Curators say it is one of the most comprehensive surveys of Ukrainian modern art in the period between 1900 to 1930.

Many of the works have hardly been seen outside of Ukraine. The exhibition will run at the museum until April 30, and then go on show in Cologne in Germany from September 2023.

‘Vision’ of Russia’s destruction

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video shown at a preview Monday that “this is a vision of what Russia is trying to destroy”.

After weeks of intense preparation, the pieces were loaded into two trucks in mid-November just before the Ukrainian capital came under intense missile fire.

As it headed to the Polish border the convoy avoided passing infrastructure likely to be attacked, Thyssen-Bornemisza said.

When the convoy reached the border, they found it shut because a missile had just landed in a Polish village killing two people.

Thyssen-Bornemisza said she then asked Ukraine’s ambassador to Spain for help, who in turn contacted “every politician he knew between Poland and Ukraine”.

“It took them 12 hours that night — they managed to get through,” she said.

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, says over 200 cultural sites in Ukraine, including museums, have been damaged since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Krista Pikkat, UNESCO’s cultural and emergencies director, said in October that “cultural heritage is very often collateral damage during wars — but sometimes it’s specifically targeted”.

The Madrid exhibition is one of a number of showings of Ukraine’s cultural heritage across Europe. Photo: Oscar del Pozo

‘Talk about the war’

The exhibition follows a chronological order.

It starts with the 1910s when Ukraine was part of the Russian empire and ends in the 1930s when several artists died during purges carried out by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, said one of the show’s curators Katia Denysova.

Most of the works come from the National Art Museum of Ukraine.

Among the works on display is “Composition”, a Cubist-inspired painting by Vadym Meller and a realistic portrait of a soldier by Kostiantyn Yeleva.

“It is important for us to continue to talk about the war,” Denysova said.

“But we also want to show with this project that Ukraine has so much more to offer.”

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