French armed forces regrets barring two Russians from tourist site

The two women were denied entry to the Château de Vincennes because of confusion over an internal military directive

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France’s armed forces ministry has said it regrets a “lack of discernment” after two Russian citizens were refused access to a tourist site last month because of an internal directive banning Russians from strategic military sites in France.

The two Russian women were barred entry to the Château de Vincennes (Val-de-Marne) on July 28. The site is open to the public but is one of the sites of France’s Historical Defence Service (Service Historique de la Défense).

The office of the armed forces ministry stated on Monday (August 8) that the refusal was based on an internal directive issued following the invasion of Ukraine [by Russia] to “restrict Russian nationals’ access to the ministry’s military holdings”.

A spokesperson for the office of France’s armed forces minister Sébastien Lecornu then contacted news agency AFP yesterday (August 9) to clarify its position.

He said that the incident at the château de Vincennes occurred following “a lack of discernment” in the application of this internal directive.

“It goes without saying that [this rule] cannot be applied in the same way for strategic buildings as for places open to the public, such as museums,” he said.

“The Château de Vincennes, but also the Air and Space Museum or the Paris Army Museum can still welcome Russian tourists and Russian immigrants.

“The Minister of the Armed Forces has asked that we clarify this directive with the staff of these places to avoid any future incidents.”

He added that he did not know of any other similar refusals occurring elsewhere.

One of the Russian women who was refused entry to the castle, a 31-year-old journalist, said that she was upset at the incident and that she had left Russia five months ago as she opposed the invasion of Ukraine.

Read more: The war is wrong but hate towards us hurts: Russian resident of Nice

France’s strategic military buildings have been off limits to all Russian nationals since the country invaded Ukraine on February 24. These buildings are normally closed to the public anyway.

The press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, was asked about this incident, as well as calls in Finland to stop new tourist visas being issued to Russian nationals.

He said these countries [France and Finland] need to “come to their senses”.

“These statements come from countries that we have designated as ‘unfriendly’,” he said.

“Many of these countries are guided by their hostility to the point of thoughtlessness. I think that in time common sense will prevail again and those who make these statements will come to their senses,” he said.

As of 2021, around 73,500 Russian citizens live in France, the country’s national statistics bureau Insee reports.

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