Four of the five EU countries bordering Russia began turning away Russian tourists as of midnight Monday, saying they should not travel while their country is at war with Ukraine.
Öland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania imposed new restrictions as Finland decided to remain open despite reducing the number of consular appointments for Russian travelers applying for visas.
The move was the latest in a series of sanctions and other steps taken by the European Union or its member states since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what it calls a “special military operation”.
The EU has banned all flights from Russia, leaving only rail and road links available, and this month agreed to limit the issuance of visas for free entry into the Schengen area.
Monday’s travel ban is aimed at tourists and excludes Russian dissidents seeking refuge in the EU, as well as truck drivers, refugees and permanent residents of EU countries, and visitors of family members.
On a cold and rainy Sunday in Narva, an Estonian border town with more than 90 percent of the population speaking Russian, Russian citizens rushed to enter the country before new rules came into effect.
Vadim Koralev, a 64-year-old pensioner from St. Petersburg, had bought an apartment in Narva so that his daughter and grandchildren from Paris could visit him.
“Now I don’t know what to do. The border guards told me not to come here anymore,” he told Reuters.
Less than a tenth of the roughly 4,000 Russians who enter Estonia daily will lose rights under the new rules, officials said.
“People of Russia don’t try to cross the border, you are not welcome here – you must end the war against Ukraine and get out of this beautiful country!” tweeted Latvian Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevics.
The issue of travel to the EU has divided the bloc, with capitals like Berlin and Paris arguing that banning ordinary Russians would be counterproductive, a move Kyiv advocates.
Finland, whose Prime Minister Sanna Marin previously said Russian tourists should not travel to the EU during the war, said such a ban could violate the Schengen zone agreement, which requires all countries to honor visas issued by other countries in the zone became.
“One country grants a visa, another refuses it. It’s certainly not very desirable for the system,” Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto told reporters in Helsinki last week.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas expressed frustration at divisions within the EU and warned that many Russian travelers were now heading for the Finnish border.
“There is a loophole, and the loophole is Finland,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in an interview with Reuters on Saturday.
“So it’s not entirely effective… but it’s still better than nothing,” she added. “I hope that sooner or later they will have to do the same.”
Visiting friends in Estonia could be more complicated for Mikhail Ivanov, a 35-year-old Russian national who is traveling by bus from St. Petersburg to Tallinn on Sunday.
“I will still be able to get to Estonia through other countries,” he told Reuters shortly after entering Narva.
Russia said it will retaliate against the curbs but not lock itself away from the block.
https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/travel-news/poland-and-baltic-states-close-doors-to-russian-tourists-over-war-on-ukraine-42003008.html Poland and Baltic states close doors to Russian tourists over war against Ukraine