27 October 2016

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OpinionTips for travelers to Russia

Ukrainian citizens traveling abroad should know: it is the Ukrainian Consulate that protects their rights in other countries, including Russia, with which Ukraine has diplomatic relations , including Russia. According to the presidential Decree "On Consular Statute of Ukraine", the Consul keeps records of citizens who reside in a particular country or come for a short trip. Thus, formally, once a citizen crosses the border, they automatically become an object of the consulate monitoring.

Once a citizen crosses the border, they automatically become an object of the consulate monitoring

In case when Ukrainians enter the Russian Federation, the consul shall brief them on the Russian legislation. Besides, he has a power of attorney to represent the interests of Ukrainian citizens in the institutions of the receiving State. If citizens of Ukraine inform the consul that they do not require such representation or that another person will represent their interests, the consul’s representation is terminated. However, in any case, if an incident occurs when the Ukrainian citizens are being brought to justice in Russia (in criminal, civil, or administrative cases), the consul controls the situation on its compliance with the law.

When traveling into Russia, in order to pre-empt any accusations of violating local legislation, the Ukrainian citizens should consider the following. First of all, citizens of Ukraine cross into Russia on a visa-free basis. However, it must be remembered that the stay of Ukrainians in the Russian Federation is limited to 90 days (this restriction does not apply if a citizen of Ukraine has obtained a permanent residence permit).

The second thing to remember is that the term of administrative detention in Russia shall not exceed three hours with the exception of administrative proceedings into border violations and breach of the rules of stay, into the offenses committed in internal sea waters, territorial sea, on the continental shelf, or the exclusive economic zone of the Russian Federation, or into violations of customs rules (in these cases, the detention may be extended to 48 hours).

The third thing is that in case of detention in a criminal case, a citizen of Ukraine must be guaranteed: the right to call their relatives, the right to counsel, the right to remain silent or testify, and the right to communicate in their native language.

It is always a personal right of the Ukrainians to choose whether they should travel to Russia or abstain from such trip. Moreover, in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine, any person who legally resides in the Ukrainian territory may move freely within its borders or leave the country. Only the Ukrainian court may in some cases restrict such a right.

With regard to the risks associated with the political factor, I would not recommend traveling to Russia to the Ukrainian citizens who have taken an active civic stance, who are public figures without the so-called "political immunity". We remember the case when the member of the Ukrainian parliament was detained at the march organized in memory of Boris Nemtsov in March 2015. That time, it all boiled down to a short-term detention, but only due to the special status of a people's deputy and the general media stir.

It is always a personal right of the Ukrainians to choose whether they should travel to Russia or abstain from such trip

There is a risk for Ukrainian visitors in Russia most certainly when people, because of their profession, can be used as hostages of the current situation. But, in any case, it is always a private matter in a democratic and civic state to decide whether to cross the border.

Roman Savchuk is a managing partner at Legal Consulting Center law firm

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