Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have banned vehicles registered in Russia from entering their territories, a joint decision that follows a recent interpretation of European Union sanctions against Moscow over his war against Ukraine.
Estonia imposed the measure on Wednesday morning, following similar measures taken by its southern neighbors Latvia and Lithuania earlier in the week. The Estonian Interior Ministry said the decision by the Baltic countries – all of which are NATO members bordering Russia – followed “the additional interpretation of the sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation published by the European Commission » on September 8.
Under the EU decision, motor vehicles registered in the Russian Federation are no longer allowed to enter the territory of the 27-member bloc, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Baltic states are among Europe’s most vocal critics of Russia and President Vladimir Putin.
“The aim of the sanctions against Russia is to force the aggressor country to retreat to its borders,” Estonian Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets said in a statement.
“We have found, in consultation with the Latvian and Lithuanian authorities, that restrictions are more effective when sanctions are imposed jointly,” Läänemets said.
Dmitry Medvedev, vice-president of the Russian Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, denounced the European Commission’s decision on Tuesday as “racist”. He suggested Moscow could retaliate by suspending diplomatic ties with the EU and recalling its diplomats from Brussels.
Reacting to Estonia’s move on Wednesday, Andrei Klishas, head of the constitutional legislation committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Russia should respond similarly.
“Only retaliatory measures reflecting this (ban) could lead to the lifting of these EU ‘rules’,” he said.
The Russian Federal Customs Service reported on Wednesday that the first vehicle attempting to enter Estonia with Russian license plates was turned away at a crossing point in the eastern Estonian town of Narva at the border with Russia. The service’s online statement does not specify whether it is a truck or a passenger car.
The ban on entry with a motor vehicle applies regardless of the reason for its owner or user’s stay in Estonia or the EU. The ban does not apply to vehicles intended for the use of diplomatic and consular missions of the EU and its Member States, including delegations, embassies and missions.
In addition, motor vehicles with a Russian Federation license plate are allowed to leave Estonia or cross internal EU borders, the Interior Ministry said. The same goes for Latvia and Lithuania.
“We cannot allow citizens of an aggressor state to enjoy the benefits of freedom and democracy, while Russia continues its genocide in Ukraine,” Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said in a statement. communicated.
Tsahkna said the Estonian government would discuss on Thursday what to do with Russian-registered vehicles already in the country.
Lithuania’s customs agency, which borders the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, said on Wednesday it had turned back 36 Russian-registered vehicles from the border in the past 48 hours.
Russian citizens can continue to transit through Lithuania to and from Kaliningrad by train.