Over the last two years, a number of microstates, mainly those located in the Pacific, have introduced a visa-free regime with Russia.
For example, two years ago, the island nation of Fiji canceled visas for Russians, while the Kremlin offered similar terms to hypothetical tourists from Fiji.
A year ago, it was Vanuatu, microstate in Melanesia, that suddenly decided to introduce visa-free regime with the Russian Federation.
And now Mauritius, a distant island in the Indian Ocean close to Madagascar, also readies to join the visa-free club.
Given the fact that Moscow has been losing on all fronts in the Ukrainian (as well as Syrian and Turkish) issue in the UN General Assembly, it resorted to a good old buying of votes.
This series of events separated in time may appear confusing, weird and even funny. Really, why would a fish need a bicycle? (Especially considering persistent recommendations of Russian authorities to its citizens to spend their holidays in occupied Crimea or in the Russian resort of Sochi). Are there any Russians living in Vanuatu? Hardly so, given the fact that the tourist exchange and trade turnover between the island nation and the Russian Federation is close to a zero (except for Mauritius, but the island is considered one of the world’s most expensive and exquisite resorts, so it’s the Russians with several different passports on them, other than Russian, who travel there, enjoying a "personal" visa-free regime).
However, I will explain what has really been happening.
Given the fact that Moscow has been losing on all fronts in the Ukrainian (as well as Syrian and Turkish) issue in the UN General Assembly, it resorted to a good old buying of votes, desperately searching for any allies and attempting to secure at least some smallest foreign policy victories.
It is clear that Russia is not in a position to radically change the situation in their favor. It’s not even about the money as it’s too inconvenient for representatives of those states which systematically vote in the UN against Russia to take bribes from Moscow, while a visa-free travel to Russia of, say, British citizens, is unlikely to force the British government to reconsider its principles.
But Sergey Lavrov’s clowns can at least try to make it appear as if they are improving the situation at the UN for Russia, employing such tactics.
Russia pursues its policy of silencing the issue of Crimea
People from a grim high-rise building on Smolenskaya Square in Moscow are buying the votes of those UN member states which traditionally abstain on “Ukrainian” resolutions. Usually a powerful Vanuatu, glorious Honduras and other countries with whom Russia has recently signed visa-free agreements, are too distant from the problems of Ukraine, Syria, or Yemen.
After all, Russians believe that in exchange for foreign political favors or substantial bribes, these countries may alter their position in the UN General Assembly from a neutral "abstained" to a categorical support of Russia.
My sources in the UN have been telling me this for years. And the situation has not changed a bit.
Russia pursues its policy of silencing the issue of Crimea. It ignores the problem of human rights in the occupied peninsula and refuses to talk about its role in the armed conflict in Donbas.
... Meanwhile, it tries to buy more time in order to buy a sufficient number of votes in the UN.
And the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, just as the Ukrainian Mission to the UN, should do something to counter this.
Andrei Vasilyev, New York