TALLINN - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have barred entry on their external borders for all Russian nationals with a short-stay Schengen visa starting Monday, September 19.
The restriction does not apply to all Russian citizens. Crossing the state border will continue to be possible for Russian nationals visiting family members or co-parents of minor children living in Estonia on a valid legal basis. Exemptions will continue to apply to diplomats; Russian nationals with a short-stay visa and registered employment in Estonia or with a student visitor visa, as well as for people directly employed in the international transport of goods and passengers.
Exceptional entry is also allowed on humanitarian grounds and for dissidents. Transit without delay is also allowed to people who need to travel through Estonia to reach their country of residence. Exemptions will also apply when crossing Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish borders.
"Together with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, we decided to introduce common restrictions on tourism for Russian nationals to protect public order and security," Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said on September 8.
"Russia has brought war to Europe and is using all tools to undermine our societies. As the border states of the EU, we must keep Europe safe. Currently it is not possible to ensure that the Russian citizens entering the EU through Estonia do not pose a security threat. A regional agreement has been reached and now we will continue working towards a tourism restriction on Russian citizens in the entire European Union," Kallas said in a statement.
"Travel to the European Union is a privilege, not a human right. As the people of Ukraine are being tortured, murdered and terrorized, the citizens of the aggressor state should not be able to enjoy the benefits of the free world. We will no longer allow Russian tourists to cross our border, visiting family living in Estonia will remain among exceptions," Kallas said.
The same was also underlined in a joint statement of the prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland on September 8.
Minister of the Interior Lauri Laanemets said Estonia has already imposed a sanction on Russian nationals holding a Schengen visa issued by Estonia but this does not prevent Russian citizens with Schengen visas issued by other states from travelling here or using Estonia for transit.
"In view of the EU sanction banning air traffic, Estonia's eastern border is becoming a transit hub. Whereas in February 10,477 Russian citizens crossed Estonia’s eastern border, this number increased to more than 26,500 in July and in the summer months, more than 1,000 people per day crossed the border on average. In addition to its own internal security, Estonia, an external border state, is responsible for the entire Schengen area and the mass travel of Russian nationals entails an increased security threat in current circumstances," the minister of the interior said.
"Every country has the right to close its borders for security considerations and temporarily restrict border crossings, and for ensuring security in the region and the Schengen area more broadly, together with the other Baltic States and Poland we will restrict the transit of Russian tourists," the minister said.
Laanemets said that from a moral perspective, it was important to continue looking for a solution on the EU level but at the moment, it was necessary to quickly introduce additional measures to mitigate the threats that tourism transit entails for the internal security and public order of the region.
Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said on September 8 that work on a EU-wide solution will continue.
"Until we have come to an agreement on EU level on restricting entry for Russian nationals into the European Union, we are imposing these restrictions regionally. This is our legitimate response to the mass movement of Russian tourists through our countries to the rest of Europe," Reinsalu said, adding that continuing with sanctions against Russia was crucial for putting relentless pressure on Russia, and from Estonia's foreign policy perspective, it is a values-based and existential issue.