The Baltic countries will almost completely restrict border crossings for Russians who have Schengen visas, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs announced Wednesday.
Following a meeting between the eight Nordic and Baltic foreign ministers, Rinkēvičs announced a joint agreement was reached “in principle” to restrict entry through Russian and Belarusian borders to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania for Russian citizens with EU Schengen visas.
“What we have seen in the last couple of weeks and months, is that the number of border crossings by Russian citizens holding Schengen visas have dramatically increased. This is becoming a public security issue, this is also an issue of a moral and political nature,” he said.
There will be exceptions for Russian citizens crossing the border for humanitarian and family reasons, lorry drivers and diplomats. Details will be announced in the coming days.
Final decisions will be made at the national level and will come into force at the same time, the foreign minister said. Rinkēvičs added that he expects the measures to apply within the next 10 days.
Finland, which has cut the issuance of tourist visas to Russians to 10 percent of applications, won’t restrict all Russians who are traveling on Schengen visas until a decision is made at the EU level.
“We are also expecting that the Commission … might make a recommendation on the European level, because unfortunately, Finland and Helsinki airport has become one of the transit routes for people who are then flying to Greece or Spain or Italy,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Wednesday.
“It’s very important that on the EU level, we tackle this problem,” he added.
The move from the Baltic countries comes a day after the European Commission officially backed a proposal to suspend the EU’s 2007 visa agreement with Moscow in retaliation for Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.
The issue of a ban on Russian visas has caused friction between European capitals. Countries including the Baltics, Finland and the Czech Republic pushed for a full travel ban, as senior officials in Kyiv have demanded; while others led by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz opposed such a step, arguing that it would also stop Russian dissidents and critics of Putin’s war from entering the EU.
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