Aug 18, 2022 - World

Estonia officially bans Russian tourists from entering country

Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu speaking during a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, on August 17.
Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu speaks during a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, on Aug. 17. Photo: Saara Peltola/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images

Russian citizens starting Thursday will no longer be allowed to visit Estonia with a travel visas for tourism, business, sports or other activities because of the Kremlin's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Estonia’s public broadcaster ERR News reports.

Why it matters: While several European Union nations stopped issuing travel visas to Russian citizens at the start of the invasion, Estonia last week became the first to announce that travel visas previously issued to Russian citizens are no longer valid.

  • It said exceptions would be made for Russians who have relatives in Estonia, Russian diplomats and their family members, people who are allowed to obtain a visa on humanitarian grounds, Russians working in the transportation of goods and passengers and for Russians who have a travel visa issued by another Schengen country, according to ERR.

What they're saying: Estonia's Minister of Interior Lauri Läänemets said Thursday that the ban was necessary because Russia, by invading Ukraine, attacked the European values and freedoms that Russian citizens seek to enjoy by traveling to EU countries.

  • "Therefore, Russian citizens cannot have the self-evident freedom to enjoy the opportunities offered by the same European values and freedoms that the European Union offers – be it vacation, education or business activities," Läänemets said Thursday in a statement, according to ERR.
  • Läänemets said he believes the visa restrictions should be applied in all EU nations.
  • He estimated that roughly 2,500 Russians enter the country everyday, with 1,250 of them travelling on short-term visas issued by either the Estonian government or other Schengen countries.

Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu defended the country's decision, telling AP in an exclusive interview that Russian citizens have a “moral responsibility” to object to the Kremlin's invasion.

  • “Our idea is to give a signal to all our European partners, all our Western community partners, to close down our borders to Russian citizens, except humanitarian cases,” Reinsalu said.
  • “Russian citizens are not welcome in Europe. Their country is committing a genocidal war against an innocent people," he added.

The big picture: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly urged all Western countries to ban all Russian travelers earlier this month, saying Russians should "live in their own world until they change their philosophy."

  • Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský told the Czech News Agency last week that he wished to propose an EU-wide Russian travel ban at the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague on Aug. 31.
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he opposes an EU-wide ban, saying that many dissenting Russians are currently fleeing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime, according to Politico.

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