In the last three months, 13.000 citizens of Russia entered Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), it was confirmed by the Border Police. The political disagreement in BiH regarding the abolition of the visa-free regime for Russians opens the way for them to illegally cross the border with the European Union (EU).
We found Anton Prozerin from Yekaterinburg, Russia, in one of the migrant camps in Lipa, near Bihac. This thirty-year-old man from the foot of the Ural mountain range, almost two thousand kilometers from Moscow, claims that he has been on his way to Europe for years. He tried several times to cross the border with Croatia. In a few days, he will try for the first time from Bihac.
“It’s not because of the war”
“I left Russia a long time ago. It’s not because of the war that’s happening now if you want to talk about that. I left Russia for other reasons. I went through Turkey and I’ve been here in the Balkans for several winters,” says Prozerin.
In the last few months, an increased number of Russian citizens has been noticed at the border crossings with Croatia. The BiH Border Police say that citizens of the Russian Federation enter BiH mostly through the airport in Sarajevo, but also Tuzla and Banja Luka, and by land. Police adviser to the director of the Border Police, Svevlad Hoffmann, states that in this case the visa-free regime between BiH and the Russian Federation is being abused because Russians do not stay in BiH as tourists.
The Border Police confirmed that 13.000 citizens of the Russian Federation entered BiH in the last three months. Last year, from June to September, 22.000 Russians entered BiH, and 20.000 Russians left, according to data from the Border Police.
The EU wants to introduce visas
The introduction of visas is also expected in Brussels. The EU delegation in BiH is asking for the suspension of the visa-free regime, as Serbia recently did for several countries within the framework of the European agenda on preventing the entry of illegal migrants. They state that BiH has not harmonized the regulations with the visa policy of the EU, which it is obliged to do after it received candidate status at the end of last year. “Full compliance of BiH with the EU visa policy, which does not provide for a visa-free regime with Russia, is expected,” said the EU Delegation.
This is not good news for Russians, who enter BiH and mostly continue their journey to one of the EU countries through illegal border crossings. The visa regime, which is adhered to by all EU members, makes it impossible for citizens of certain countries to enter the EU, so BiH and Serbia, which have not yet done so, are a potential springboard for transferring these people to the West.
”We will be against the abolition of visas to Russia. We believe that there are a lot of business activities related to Republika Srpska (RS), and we will not be able to support such a decision,” Milorad Dodik, President of the RS, stated. His coalition partner, one of the leaders of the former political Eight, Elmedin Konakovic, has the opposite view and is aware that there will be no agreement on this, DW reports.