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9 Aug, 2022 11:12

EU member calls for total ban on Russians

Members of the Schengen zone should not issue tourist visas to Russians, Estonia’s PM has insisted
EU member calls for total ban on Russians

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has urged Schengen countries to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens.

“Stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” Kallas wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. She was apparently unaware that arounds 75% of Russia’s population are already on the continent.

The EU suspended air travel from Russia following the launch of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine in late February, but Schengen Area countries have continued to issue visas to Russians, she wrote.

Estonia, Latvia and Finland, which border Russia, have therefore been forced to “carry the burden” as “sole access points” into the bloc for Russian citizens, Kallas explained — seemingly forgetting Poland and Lithuania — adding that it was “time to end tourism from Russia now.”

The Schengen agreement allows for border-free travel among 26 European countries. These include most EU member states, with the exception of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Ireland. The non-EU countries in the pact are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The Estonian prime minister’s tweet followed a call by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky for all Russians to be banned from traveling to the West for at least a year.

“The most important sanctions are to close the borders – because the Russians are taking away someone else’s land,” Zelensky told the Washington Post on Monday. The Russians should “live in their own world until they change their philosophy,” he insisted.

Last week, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told Bloomberg that the Baltic state wanted to see an EU-wide travel visa ban on Russian citizens in the next round of the bloc’s sanctions on Moscow.

Reinsalu made the remarks while in Kiev, where he said the idea had been discussed with Zelensky.

Estonia has been a strong supporter of Ukraine during its conflict with Russia, advocating for an even tougher sanctions crackdown on Moscow by the EU.

Tallinn stopped issuing most types of visas for Russians shortly after the outbreak of the fighting. However, Estonia can’t prevent Russian citizens from entering if they have a visa issued by another EU member state.

A number of other EU nations – Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Czech Republic – have also imposed visa restrictions, but an EU-wide ban would require the approval of all of the bloc’s 27 members.