TOMSK, May 19 (RAPSI) – The EU has confirmed that a visa ban would not affect the average Russian even though talks on visa-free travel had been suspended over Ukraine., according to the EU envoy to Russia Vygaudas Usackas.

The United States and the European Union introduced sanctions against Russian officials, businesspeople and companies following Crimea’s unification with Russia, which they have not recognized. The Russian Foreign Ministry repeatedly stated that these bans were counterproductive.

EU envoy to Russia Vygaudas Usackas said Europe was interested in Russian tourists and that the number of Russians visiting Europe has been on the rise for the past three years.

Ukraine went through a regime change on February 22, when President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country and Western-backed ultranationalist activists rose to power in Kiev. The Verkhovna Rada changed the constitution and set an early presidential election for May 25. Moscow has not acknowledged the legitimacy of the parliament’s decisions.

Pro-federalization rallies swept southeastern regions of Ukraine after Yanukovych fled the country. Protesters, who have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new authorities, have been gathering since March, demanding referendums on the status of their regions.

The Donetsk and Luhansk regions proclaimed themselves sovereign states after controversial May 11 referendums, with ballots in Ukrainian and Russian asking whether voters supported the act of state self-determination in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

In the Luhansk Region, voter turnout was over 79%. In neighboring Donetsk Region, more than 70% came to cast their ballots despite an intensified military operation by the Kiev government. Around 90% voted for self-determination.