Report: Russian Customs Officials Stopping Turkish Nationals at Airports

AP Photo/Denis Tyrin
AP Photo/Denis Tyrin

Russian customs officials are denying Turkish nationals entry into the nation, reports indicate.

The Kyiv Post wrote about an incident at Vnukovo Airport, 17 miles southwest of Moscow. The airport is one of three major airports to serve the Russian capital, serving over 11 million passengers. On December 6, a Turkish national known only as Onur attempted to enter Russia with his Russian girlfriend Svetlana.

“No, we cannot grant you entry. Step away from the booth,” barked a female migration official.

Onur stepped back, and the migration official then shouted at his girlfriend to approach the booth. Svetlana said no and wanted to wait with her boyfriend.

“Well, you’ll be waiting for an awfully long time then,” the woman laughed at Svetlana.

Onur told the Kyiv Post he often traveled to Russia without any problem. He did not think the tensions between the countries “would go this far.”

Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane on November 24 following ten attempts to contact the aircraft, which had violated Turkish sovereignty by illegal entering the nation’s airspace. Two days later, anonymous sources at the Turkish embassy in Moscow told to The Moscow Times that Russian officials denied entry to 30 Turkish citizens.

Russian officials also pushed for sanctions against Turkey, which President Vladimir Putin enacted on November 29. Russian officials cracked down on Turkish nationals already in Russia. The officers rounded up workers, closed a cultural center, and harassed Turkish businessmen. They detained 400 workers at a “dormitory for construction workers from Turkish firm Mebe.” The officials fingerprinted the workers for a database to conduct background tests.

“They said the check was due to national security,” explained Irina Lebedeva, Mebe’s deputy human resources director. “”We hope this will not be repeated. It did disrupt our work. Perhaps in the current situation it can be justified.”

The Russian government will end visa-free travel with Turkey on January 1, but Minister of Labor and Social Protection Maxim Topilin said it does not apply to all:

Starting from January 1, 2016 a ban is imposed on hiring employees from the Turkish Republic, though there are two exceptions. The first concerns a list of employers to be approved by the government. Such employers will have the right to hire new specialists from Turkey. The second exception concerns employers unlisted, who will still have the right to make, renew, extend employment and contractor agreements with Turkish nationals who legally work in Russia as of Dec. 31, 2015. However, those employers won’t be able to hire new workers from Turkey.

Putin passed the sanctions due to “national security” concerns and to protect “the national interests of the Russian Federation.”

Russia and Turkey share deep economic ties. After Turkey shot down the warplane, alleging it had violated Turkish airspace and refused to answer warnings to leave, financial outlets suggested the incident could cause numerous economic problems for the NATO country.

“There are a lot of Turkish companies operating in the construction business in the Russian market; there is cooperation in the tourism sector,” stated Dmitry Abzalov, the vice president of the Center for Strategic Communications. “The termination of relations with Moscow on these issues will be negative for the Turkish economy, and it will hit the national currency, the lira.”