After the incident at the Vincennes Castle, the French Ministry of Defense allowed Russians access to tourist sites

Politics 9 August, 2022

The incident will not happen again. After denying access at the end of July to two Russian citizens wishing to visit Vincennes Castle (Val-de-Marne), on Tuesday, August 9, the Office of the Minister of War expressed regret over the «lack of insight» and assured that Russians are still allowed to visit its tourist sites.

On July 28, two Russian women were denied entry to a tourist destination because of their origin. One of them, a 31-year-old professional journalist, told Agence France-Presse that she was «upset» by the ban. Having arrived in France five months ago, she «exactly fled Russia» because she was «against the war», she admitted.

On Monday, the Department of the Ministry of the Armed Forces justified the ban by an «internal directive» adopted after the invasion of Ukraine on restricting «access to the Ministry’s military premises to Russian citizens». This castle, located southeast of Paris, houses one of the centers of the Historical Protection Service, whose libraries and archives are available to the public under certain conditions.

The Office of the Minister of the Armed Forces Sebastian Lecornu contacted AFP on Tuesday to clarify its response. Thus, the episode with the Vincennes Castle falls under the «indifferent application» of the rule adopted in February for all military facilities, the cabinet explained.

«It goes without saying that [this rule] cannot be applied to strategic buildings in the same way as to places open to the public, such as museums», – he insisted. Therefore, the Vincennes Castle, as well as the Aviation and Cosmonautics Museum or the Invalids’ Home can always receive tourists and immigrants from Russia. «The Minister of the Armed Forces asked (…) that we explain this directive to the agents of these places in order to avoid any incidents», – added his office, which was not aware of any other similar case.

When asked about this episode, as well as Finland’s calls to stop issuing new tourist visas for Russian citizens, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called on these countries to «come to their senses». «These statements come from countries that we have designated as unfriendly (…) Many of these countries are guided by their hostility to unconsciousness», – Peskov told the press. «I think, over time, common sense will prevail again, and those who make these statements will come to their senses», – he added.

On the other hand, access to «strategic buildings» has been severely restricted for Russians since the conflict began in February. In early August, France crossed the threshold of 100 thousand Ukrainian refugees placed on its territory. According to INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Research), 73,500 immigrants from Russia lived in France in 2021.