Russians with Estonia-issued Schengen visas will be denied entry, with a full ban to be discussed, the foreign minister says
Estonia will close its borders to Russian nationals with Schengen visas issued by the Baltic nation, the Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday.
"In a week's time, Schengen visas issued by the Republic of Estonia will be subject to a sanction," Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told reporters.
"The sanction means that the visas will remain valid. However, visa holders will be sanctioned when entering Estonia; in other words, they will not be allowed to enter Estonia," he said, adding that there will be several exceptions to new rules.
The exceptions include those who work at diplomatic missions in Estonia and their family members, as well as individuals engaged in international cargo and passenger transportation. Moreover, the ban will not apply to those who have the right of free movement under EU law, persons whose entry into Estonia is necessary for humanitarian reasons, relatives of Estonian citizens, or relatives of permanent residents.
"I would like to emphasize once again - firstly, this provision comes into force in a week. Secondly, it means that the vast majority of Schengen visas issued in Estonia actually will still be valid, but those individuals who do not fall under the exceptions are not allowed to enter Estonia," Reinsalu said, stressing that the move would have no impact on Russian citizens with Schengen visas issued elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the Estonian government intends to discuss a possible path to barring all Russian nationals that hold Schengen visas from entering the country.
Earlier this month, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas urged Schengen countries to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens. "Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right," she said at the time.
Her statement was echoed by Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who said it's "not right" that Russians "can live a normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists", while Moscow wages "an aggressive, brutal war of aggression." Marin added that she would "personally like to see European solutions to this question."
Nonetheless, the EU has so far been reluctant to close its borders to Russian citizens, with one Brussels official telling the Financial Times this week that the bloc did not want a complete ban.
"You don't want to completely ban all Russians from traveling to the EU. How are we going to engage at all?" an unnamed EU official told the newspaper. "Russians not in favor of the war need to be able to travel too."
Commenting on a possible travel ban, the Kremlin described people supporting the move as "delirious" and decried the idea itself as "irrational."
"They are stooping to sentiments that we heard literally 80 years ago from certain countries in the heart of Europe," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding that he hoped people who made these statements would "come to their senses".