Estonia is imposing sanctions against Russia by banning from August 18 the entry of Russian citizens with tourist visas to the northernmost Baltic country as a result of the war in Ukraine. The European Union, of which Estonia is a member, has already banned air travel from Russia. But Russians could still travel by land to Estonia and apparently take flights from there to other European destinations.
Starting August 18, Estonia said it will bar most Russians from entering the country through visas issued by Estonian authorities, cutting off an important passport-free route to Europe’s Schengen area. Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said on Monday that all valid Schengen visas, with the exception of some humanitarian cases, will be cancelled.
“It is about over 50,000 valid visas and the vast majority of them will be blocked from August 18. Persons holding these visas will be blocked from entering Estonia. Secondly, we are considering the possibility of closing the Russian-Estonian border to all Russian citizens who enter the Schengen area or Estonian territory.tha zoti Reinsalu.
The head of the border guard says that after the start of the war in Ukraine, the number of Russian citizens crossing the border has continued to grow.
“The main reason was due to the suspension of flights between the EU and Russia. Russian citizens who wanted to go to the EU had to cross the land border. So basically it means from Finland, Estonia and Latvia. And when the summer season started, the numbers were increasing more and more, due to tourists from the Russian Federation coming to various summer destinations in Europe.” says Ergert Belitsev.
Russian tourists crossing the border in the eastern city of Narva say Russian citizens should not be punished for their government’s actions.
“I think that human rights should not be violated, regardless of all the things that are happening. People should move freely. As the German chancellor said – people are not to blame, but those who made decisions must be held accountable. People should not be responsible for them”says Russian citizen Boris.
“It is very bad, we were very upset when we read this announcement, because Europe is civilized and we see ourselves as civilized people and we want to move freely. Now I am going to Germany to see my friends and we have friends all over the world. It’s a shame if Estonia closes the border. This is very bad for us”says Ekaterina.
Last month the European Union agreed to the seventh round of sanctions against Russia. Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have already banned visas for most Russians, while Finland and Estonia recently asked the EU to do so through joint action.
“We will make a formal proposal to the European Commission through the 8th sanctions package to also limit, or effectively end, the issuance of Schengen visas and also to carry out a review of existing visas valid throughout the Schengen area”said the foreign minister of Estonia.