Ukraine makes it harder for its citizens to travel to Russia

Starting March 1, Ukrainians will need an international passport to go to Russia. The new measure will limit traveling for many Ukrainians who only have their Ukrainian IDs.

Until now, Ukrainians could travel to Russia using their domestic passports that each Ukrainian has by default. Children under the age of 16 were able to travel on their birth certificates.

But Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers’ put an end to it with its decree on Dec. 18, that came in force on March 1. Ukrainian citizens who were in Russia when the decree came in force, will be able to return to Ukraine using their domestic passports and birth certificates, according to the government.

It’s not clear exactly how many Ukrainians will be affected by the change. As of 2017, only 34 percent of Ukrainians had an international passport, according to a survey by the Democratic Initiatives polling center.

The numbers grew since then, with millions of Ukrainians applying for biometric international passports when the visa-free regime with most of the European Union kicked in in June 2017. However, the government doesn’t publish statistical data on the number of Ukrainians who hold foreign travel documents.

Although foreign passport are available to all Ukrainians, getting one can be a hassle: It requires traveling to the nearest large city, paying a fee that can range from $22 to $50, and waiting for up to 20 workdays.

Russian officials weren’t happy about Ukraine’s decision to change the rules.

Russia’s top official Konstantin Zatulin criticized the move in December, saying that it would create difficulties for the citizens of Ukraine and that Russia should continue to allow Ukrainians in on their domestic passports.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine defended the decision, arguing that Ukraine’s domestic passport has a low degree of protection and that the glued-in photo can easily be modified by those seeking to flee Ukraine using fake documents.

From 1992 until 2016, Ukrainian internal passports were only produced and issued in the form of a traditional passport booklet. A new plastic ID card has been introduced in 2016, but the old passports remain valid.

Belarus is the only country where Ukrainians can go using domestic passports, while Turkey and Georgia allow Ukrainians with plastic ID cards. All the other countries, including Russia, require an international passport.

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