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Russian Cops Still Can't Vacation In The West, But Turkmenistan Is Fair Game

If the reports are true, Russian Interior Ministry employees might have to travel to old Soviet-era resorts, such as the Cheleken Peninsula in Turkmenistan, rather than flocking to the beaches of Egypt. (file photo)
If the reports are true, Russian Interior Ministry employees might have to travel to old Soviet-era resorts, such as the Cheleken Peninsula in Turkmenistan, rather than flocking to the beaches of Egypt. (file photo)

Russian police officers who'd dreamed of vacationing in the West or hitting the beaches of Turkey and Egypt in 2018 may have to wait another year.

But they still have Turkmenistan.

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.

'Safe' Destinations

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.

Outside the former Soviet Union, Interior Ministry employees are only allowed to travel to Vietnam, Cuba, and China, according to the ATOR report.

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.

RBC reported on January 12 that Palestinian areas were approved as a travel destination for Russian Interior Ministry employees last year, but that they were excluded from this year's list.

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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.

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