A Russian tourism association has published what it says is a list of approved vacation destinations for Interior Ministry employees, a move that comes amid broad restrictions on foreign travel for Russian security officers since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in early 2014.
The Interior Ministry has yet to comment on the list published by the Association of Russian Tour Operators (ATOR) that was originally released just before the new year but only grabbed headlines in Russia on January 12.
But the 13 destinations on the list are consistent with images of a purported decree on the matter signed by Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev in late December that have been circulating on Russian social-media sites in recent weeks. The authenticity of these images could not be immediately confirmed.
The ministry and other Russian security agencies in recent years have reportedly issued similar lists for their respective employees since Russia‘s takeover of Crimea in March 2014, which was followed by the outbreak of a war between Kyiv’s forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The United States and the European Union remain off limits for Russian Interior Ministry employees in 2018, according to the list published by ATOR. But it says eight former Soviet republics — Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — are fair game.
More Westward-looking former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia are excluded, as is Moldova, which has a pro-Western government, but a president who seeks closer ties with Moscow. The list also includes the breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are recognized only by Russia and a handful of other states.
Other popular destinations for Russian tourists like Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Thailand reportedly didn’t make the cut, though they had been approved in 2015-16, the Russian news agency RBC noted.
According to images of Kolokoltsev’s purported directive posted on social media, the list of 13 approved destinations are considered safe in terms of military, politics, crime, ecology, climate, and health.
One commenter on a police-themed social-media profile posted a purported image of an analogous directive from the federal National Guard showing the same approved destinations as the reported Interior Ministry list, but adds the Maldives as well.
The authenticity of that document also could not be immediately confirmed.