Russia outlines response to EU visa restrictions

The Baltic countries and Poland won’t allow Russian tourists with Schengen visas in, Estonia’s foreign minister said

In less than two weeks, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland will bar Russian nationals possessing Schengen visas from entry, even if the visa had been issued by other EU countries, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said on Thursday.

The ban will take effect on September 19. “This applies to those Russians who have visas issued by Estonia and other EU countries. Lithuania, Latvia and Poland will also introduce a ban from the same moment,” he told a press conference in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital.

Don’t come to Estonia with Schengen visas, you are not welcome here,” the minister added, apparently addressing Russian citizens.

However, according to the minister, the new sweeping restrictions apply only to individuals with tourist visas and will have no impact on those traveling to see family members or for humanitarian reasons.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Lyskov, the head of press service of the government of Kaliningrad Region, a Russian exclave nestled between Lithuania, Poland and the Baltic Sea, blasted the crackdown as “an exercise in genocide.”

The move by the Baltic nations and Poland comes after the EU Commission this week supported a proposal to suspend a visa facilitation agreement with Moscow, thus making travelling to the bloc more expensive and difficult for Russian citizens.

Earlier, several individual EU members, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania stopped issuing visas to Russian citizens.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, prior to Reinsalu’s announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled that Moscow would not respond in a tit-for-tat way by imposing visa restrictions on foreign citizens, saying that it would be contrary to the country’s national interests. He also said that he would be happy to see foreign students and businesspeople visit the country.

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