The Estonian government announced on Thursday that it would ban Russians holding Schengen visas issued by Estonia from entering the country.
“We see that the number of Russian citizens passing through Estonia or coming from Russia to Estonia has increased significantly,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told a press conference, replacing Prime Minister Kaja Kallas who is currently in solitary confinement after testing positive for coronavirus. .
“The ability for Russian citizens to travel to Estonia en masse or via Estonia to Europe is not in line with the purpose of the sanctions we have imposed,” he added.
The rule will apply from August 18, but excludes Russian citizens holding visas issued by other EU countries. It also excludes Russian citizens who have a long-term residence in Estonia, Russian diplomats and their families, workers transporting goods and passengers, people visiting close relatives, citizens enjoying freedom of movement in under EU law and people traveling for humanitarian reasons.
Estonia “has decided to no longer accept people from Russia, who hold a #Schengen visa which has been granted by [Estonia], to enter the country. I call on other governments to follow such steps,” Reinsalu said. tweeted.
The Czech Republic became the first EU country to stop issuing visas to Russian citizens at the end of February, and Finland and Latvia are calling on all EU countries to impose a total ban on Russian travelers. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Monday she expected the issue to be discussed at upcoming EU leaders’ summits.
The Commission said current visa sanctions target Russian oligarchs and people close to the Kremlin, not citizens.
Commission spokeswoman Anitta Hipper told reporters at a midday briefing on Thursday that EU countries must ensure that certain categories of people still get visas, such as “humanitarian aid , family members, journalists or dissidents”. Hipper added that discussions were taking place at EU level with member countries to “ensure coordinated action”.
Luanna Muniz contributed reporting.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct a reference to the first country to stop issuing visas to Russian citizens.