Baltic nations are closing their borders to Russian travelers over the ongoing war waged against Ukraine.
In early August, Estonia, Finland, and Ukraine all asked the European Union to put a temporary hold on allowing Russian citizens to travel freely. The prime ministers of several countries asked for the ban in an EU summit last month, but it didn’t come to a vote. The EU has already banned air traffic from Russia into its airspace, and there are visa restrictions for government officials and business travel in place, but not on tourism.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which lie between Russia, Belarus, and the Baltic Sea, have all agreed this month to stop admitting Russian citizens at all. All three countries were once part of the Soviet Union, making them wonder if they’ll be next, should Ukraine fall. Poland, which borders them just to the south, has joined in the agreement.
“Russia is an unpredictable and aggressive state. Three-quarters of its citizens support the war. It is unacceptable that people who support the war can freely travel around the world, into Lithuania, the EU,” Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said Monday, adding “Such support for hostilities can pose threats to the security of our country and the EU as a whole.”
The ban includes Russian citizens who hold valid visas for the European Union’s Schengen Area, the core of countries which have agreed to have internally open borders between them.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told a Finnish newspaper that Russian travelers pose security concerns because “we know that Russian spies have used fake IDs and carried out various activities in Europe using tourist visas.”
Russian tourism into the Baltic nations and Poland is already a tenth its norm, due to the pandemic, but there will still be a significant economic impact to cities on the border like Warsaw and Krakow, where Russians often come to shop for the wider selection available.