Finnish and Estonian leaders want EU countries to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens.
Russians should not be allowed to “lead normal lives” and visit Europe as tourists while Russia is at war, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told state broadcaster YLE on Tuesday. august.
“Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” said Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. also tweeted.
While EU countries have banned air travel from Russia, St. Petersburg is only 300 kilometers from the Finnish capital and Russians can still travel to Estonia and Finland and reach European capitals from there.
On Tuesday, the Finnish Foreign Ministry even said that many Russians who obtain Finnish tourist visas actually use Finland as a transit point for holiday trips elsewhere.
Since the lifting of Covid restrictions on travel, Russian border crossings into Finland have increased by 10-30% compared to the spring, Finnish government officials have said.
In an interview with The Washington Post on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said EU countries should deny all Russian tourists access to the bloc as punishment for the Kremlin’s decision to invade Ukraine. .
Russians should be forced to “live in their own world until they change their philosophy”, he said.
The EU and Russia still have a visa agreement in place which allows for the issuance of short-stay visas in different ways. The agreement was partially suspended, but it was not terminated.
And even the partial travel ban outraged the Kremlin. “The only possible attitude we can have is extremely negative,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.
Others argued that the ban would also prevent Russians who disagree with the war from entering Europe.
“You don’t want to completely ban all Russians from traveling to the EU. How are we going to engage at all?” an EU official told the Financial Times. “Russians who are not in favor of the war must also be able to travel.”
Estonia and Finland aside, Latvia has already banned almost all visa issuance to Russian citizens, but Marin said the cabinet was still debating whether Finnish authorities had the legal basis to do so and noted that it would prefer an EU solution.
“Is Finnish legislation up to date enough that we can introduce our own national sanctions in such an exceptional situation? But I would personally like to see European solutions to this issue as well,” Marin told YLE.
The visa issue is expected to be discussed at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers on August 31.