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Summertime fun in Crimea
Summertime fun in Crimea
Elizabeta Surnacheva

MOSCOW — Upon getting the news that the United States and European Union wouldn’t issue travel visas to certain senior officials as part of the continuing sanctions in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, no one in Moscow complained out loud.

Indeed, several prominent officials publicly declared that they would vacation in Russia, even if privately they wrung their hands over ruined plans for family vacations overseas. Then the government announced that it would not allow members of the armed forces to leave the country, and the image of government employees collectively opting for a “staycation” this summer got even stronger.

On April 10th, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a warning to Russian citizens, noting that the sanctions might increase the likelihood that Russian citizens would be detained by American law enforcement if they travel to the United States. The Foreign Ministry issued a general recommendation that Russian citizens avoid international travel this summer.

In truth, according to Kommersant's sources in the government, much of the responsibility for federal employees’ staying in Russia this summer lies at least partially with those employees themselves. Mostly for political reasons, many prefer not to go abroad, both out of solidarity with their sanctioned colleagues and to avoid spending money in “unfriendly” countries.

News of both Crimea’s annexation and the first list of sanctioned individuals, which included 11 Duma deputies and 8 senators, prompted euphoria in the Duma (Russian parliament). The Duma adopted - by a vote of 353 to 97 - a decree extending the "sanctions" to all of members of the Duma.

Members of the United Russia party bragged, both in public and in private, about the several weeks they were planning to spend in Crimea over the summer. They also announced the creation of an advertising campaign, “We’re going to Crimea! Who is with us?” One of the project’s features was supposed to be a website with photos of the Duma members on holiday in Crimea.

Neither the site nor the ad campaign materialized. Enthusiasm waned, and the party leadership decided against a ban on certain vacation destinations for its members not already on the list of sanctioned officials.

The truth is, most Russian Duma members will, in fact, have to spend their holidays at home. That’s not because of the sanctions, however - it’s because there are elections slated in many regions this fall, and deputies and senators are returning to their home regions to campaign instead of going on holiday.

“I’m on Canada’s sanctions list, and I’m certainly not going to Canada,” explained Mikhail Margelov, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council of Russia.

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Firefighters work to put out the fire in a mall hit by a Russian missile strike

Shaun Lavelle, Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Officials fear the death toll will continue to climb after two Russian missiles hit the Armstor shopping center in the central Ukrainian city of Kramenchuk. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, more than 1,000 people were inside the mall Monday at the time of the attack.

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For the moment, the death toll is at 18 with 36 people missing and at least 59 injured, reported a regional official on Tuesday. The search and rescue operations continue under the rubble.

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