Steinmeier: Russian travel ban damaging to Ukraine peace efforts

Germany’s foreign minister said Saturday that a Russian travel ban on 89 top European Union officials could damage peace efforts in Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Dnipropetrovsk in eastern Ukraine, Frank-Walter Steinmeier criticized the ban and called on Russia to be more transparent.

“I can only say that, apart from the fact that I don’t find it particularly wise to declare such travel bans, at the very least, those concerned should have been informed about the reservations against them, or at least those lists should be made public,” the German diplomat said.

“At a time when we are trying to defuse a persistent and dangerous conflict in the middle of Europe, this does not contribute toward that,” Steinmeier added.

Major news agencies reported that several top European officials said they were proud to be included on Russia’s black list.

The list, revealed to European diplomats Thursday, reportedly includes former and present members of parliament and prime ministers and ministers who have been vocal critics of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for the annexation of Crimea and the violence in eastern Ukraine.

Since Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, the EU has imposed economic sanctions, visa bans and asset freezes on Russian and Ukrainian individuals and organizations.

As estimated by the United Nations, more than 6,200 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has dismissed accusations by Western powers, the NATO alliance and Ukraine that it is supporting the separatists with arms and troops, saying any Russians fighting there are “volunteers.”