A half a million tourists from Russia are now unable to travel to Turkey after Moscow announced travel restrictions were announced, the Moscow Times reported on Tuesday.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova announced a ban on flights to Turkey for tourists from April 15 to June 1 for what she said was the spike in COVID-19 in the country. Last year, two million Russians visited Turkey in spite of the pandemic and Turkish authorities were hoping the start of tourist season would provide much needed help to its struggling economy.
Last Friday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and the leaders touched on the safety of Russian visitors to Turkey. According to a readout released by the Kremlin, Erdogan tried to persuade Putin of Turkey’s “anti-epidemiological measures” to ensure the safety of foreign tourists.
According to a Russian tourism association, the cancellation of flights to Turkey this year will be the equivalent in terms of economic losses to the initial shutdowns in March 2020.
Russia denies that this decision was taken as payback for Erdogan’s hosting of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky over the weekend amid ongoing tension between Ukraine and Russia over the Donbas. However, Russian senator Konstantin Kosachev linked the two issues on his Facebook page in a post on Tuesday.
“Regardless of the actions of the [Turkish] authorities, there must be civic solidarity. It is in such situations that the nation is tested for patriotism, regardless of vacation plans, and this would be a truly powerful response of our society to the irresponsible statements of the leader of the country, inviting Russians to rest, counting on their reckless love for the warm sea,” said Kosachev.