Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday said the “whole population” of Russia is responsible for the war in Ukraine and called on Western nations to ban all Russian travelers as a punishment.
“Whichever kind of Russian … make them go to Russia,” Zelensky told The Washington Post. “They’ll understand then. They’ll say, ‘This [war] has nothing to do with us. The whole population can’t be held responsible, can it?’ It can. The population picked this government and they’re not fighting it, not arguing with it, not shouting at it.”
Zelensky claimed that the West banning Russian travelers was the only way to prevent Russia from annexing Ukrainian territory. Russian-installed officials in the Russian-controlled Ukrainian territories of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia have said they are planning to hold referendums to join the Russian Federation.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned the US would respond if Russia annexed Ukrainian territory, but it’s not clear what that response could be as the US has already imposed so many sanctions on Moscow.
Zelensky said the current sanctions regime was “weak” compared with banning all Russians from traveling and a total embargo on Russian energy, which would send global oil prices skyrocketing. Russian airlines have already been banned from flying over most of Europe and North America, but a blanket ban on Russian travel hasn’t been implemented.
Russia responded to Zelensky’s comments on Tuesday, condemning them as irrational. “The irrationality of his thinking in this case is off the scale,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “This can only be seen extremely negatively. Any attempt to isolate Russia or Russians is a process that has no prospects.”