VILNIUS - Recent decisions by the three Baltic countries, Poland and Finland not to allow in some Russians with visas have severely limited the entry of Russian citizens into the European Union, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Monday.
"With the five borders closed or entry across the five borders radically restricted (...), the flow drops dramatically, because planes cannot take it over," he told reporters. "The same is true for Russian citizens fleeing the alleged mobilization."
According to the minister, although Russians can still fly to Europe via Istanbul, "there is no possibility for them to arrive in large numbers".
"Even if they all fly to Istanbul and try to fly on (to the EU), both the airlines and the airports have very limited resources," Landsbergis said.
"It is simply impossible to cram thousands of people into the same airport and onto the same planes that are available today," he added.
Commenting on possibilities for the EU to expand its sanctions against Russia, Landsbergis said that "there has been some headway in discussions on an eighth package of sanctions", but it is not yet clear if a deal will be reached, because some member countries are opposed to tightening restrictions.
"There are certain groups of goods, and individuals, companies and potentially banks (that could be sanctioned). I don't want to go deeper and create expectations, because we have seen (...) states use their veto to dash these expectations," he said.
The three Baltic countries and Poland have been restricting the entry of Russian citizens into their territories for a week now, in a regional coordinated response to Moscow's continuing war in Ukraine.
Finland announced a similar decision at the end of last week.
The EU has agreed to lift a facilitated visa regime for Russians, but the five member states are calling for even tighter visa restrictions.
The Baltic countries refused entry to around 350 Russian citizens last week, of whom 153 were not allowed into Lithuania.