States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania aim to restrict entry of Russians


The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania announced on Wednesday their intention to prevent Russian citizens from entering their country.

Why is this important: This decision would seriously complicate the ability of Russians holding a Schengen visa to enter the European Union. The visas allow holders to travel freely within the bloc.

  • Flights between Russia and the EU were canceled after the invasion of Ukraine, meaning visa holders have few options for entering the Union.
  • The Russians were able to travel overland to neighboring countries then take flights to other European destinations – but the Baltics’ deal would further limit their options.

While Estonia last month issued a lighter ban on Russians with travel visas, this agreement will be the first of its kind in the EU.

  • The agreement also comes a week after the The European Commission has agreed to support a proposal to suspend a 2007 visa agreement with Russia on travel visas, making the process longer and more expensive for Russian citizens.
  • EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said last week that the influx of Russian tourists into the EU since mid-July, when Russia lifted COVID-19-related border restrictions, “has become a security risk”. Bloomberg reported.

State of play: Edgars Rinkēvičs, Latvian Foreign Minister announcement the three nations had an agreement in principle to “substantially limit (with some exceptions) border crossings for citizens of the Russian Federation who have EU Schengen visas”.

  • The deal, which will apply to Russians traveling through both Russia and Belarus, is expected to come into force within the next 10 days, Rinkēvičs said, per Politics.
  • Exceptions will be made for diplomats and truckers, or for family and humanitarian reasons, Reuters reported.

What they say : “Over the past two weeks and months, border crossings by Russian citizens holding Schengen visas have increased significantly,” Rinkēvičs told a news conference on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

  • “It becomes a matter of public safety, it is also a question of a moral and political nature,” he added.

The big picture: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have more than once urged Western countries to ban all Russian travelers.

  • EU members are divided on the proposal, with Germany and France strongly oppose.
  • Finland, which has reduced the issuance of new tourist visas to Russians, said on Wednesday it would not take a formal decision to ban all Russians until a decision was taken at EU level, according to Politico.
  • About a million Russians have entered the EU since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine, and about two-thirds of them have entered through Estonia or Finland, Bloomberg reported, citing data from the EU border agency Frontex.

Rollback: In May, Lithuania became the first country in the world to designate Russia as a sponsor and executor of terrorism.

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