Visa ban for Russians comes into force

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Starting on Thursday, Russians with Schengen visas issued by Estonia are barred from entering the Baltic state

Estonia’s decision to bar access to most Russian citizens with Schengen visas issued by the Baltic nation came into force on Thursday.

The visa crackdown was approved by the government in Tallinn last week as part of sanctions against Moscow over its military operation in Ukraine.

The move means Russians carrying Estonian visas are now being turned away if they arrive at the Narva, Luhamaa and Koidula checkpoints on the border between the two countries.

There are several exceptions to the new rule, including diplomats and their family members; those engaged in international cargo and passenger transportation; persons with the right of free movement under EU law; those who have to enter the Baltic nation for humanitarian reasons; and close relatives of Estonian citizens or permanent residents.

Despite the travel ban, Estonian-issued visas held by Russian have not been cancelled, and can still be used to access the other 25 members of the Schengen area, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry noted.

In addition, Russian citizens who received their visas from other Schengen countries can also freely access Estonian territory for now, it added.

Earlier this week, Finland announced that it’s cutting the number of entry visas available to Russians by half, with just a hundred tourist permits now being issued per day.

Both Tallinn and Helsinki have also been calling for a total ban on issuing Schengen tourist visas to holders of Russian passports.

Meanwhile, Estonia is considering restricting access to the country even to those Russians who hold visas issued by other Schengen members.

According to Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, proposals on how to do this could be submitted by the foreign and interior ministries as early as this week. Such a measure would not be a violation of EU laws, Reinsalu insisted, pointing out that member states shut down internal EU borders at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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