The Estonian prime minister called on members of the Schengen zone to stop issuing visas to Russian citizens, citing travel to Europe as “a privilege and not a human right”. The Kremlin reacted with outrage.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has called on the Schengen countries to suspend issuing visas to Russian citizens. “Stop issuing visas to Russians. Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” Kallas wrote on Tuesday Twitter. Apparently she wasn’t aware that around 75 percent of the Russian population already lives on the European continent. While the EU suspended air services from Russia after Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine began in late February, Schengen countries continue to issue visas to Russians, she wrote. “It’s time to end tourism from Russia now.”
Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: No tourist visas for Russians
Estonia, Latvia and Finland, all three of which border Russia and are the “only points of entry into the EU,” are therefore forced to “bear the burden” of Russian citizens, Kallas explained – apparently ignoring Poland and Lithuania.
The Schengen Agreement allows travel to and through 26 European countries. This includes most EU member states, with the exception of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Ireland. The non-EU countries in the agreement are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The Estonian PM’s tweet followed a call from Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to ban all Russians from entering the West for at least a year.
“The most important sanction is to seal off the borders – because Russia is snatching territory from a neighboring country.” Russians should “live in their own world until they change their philosophy,” he said Washington Post on Monday.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu also said last week Bloombergthat the Baltic state wanted to see an EU-wide entry ban for Russian citizens in the next round of EU sanctions against Moscow. Reinsalu made his remarks while in Kyiv, stressing that the idea had been discussed with Zelensky.
Foreign Ministry: EU travel could become impossible for Russians
Estonia has been a strong supporter of Ukraine from the start of the conflict with Russia and has called for even tougher EU action against Moscow on sanctions. Tallinn suspended issuing most types of visas to Russians shortly after fighting broke out. However, Estonia cannot prevent Russian citizens from entering the country if they have a visa issued by another EU member state.
While a number of other EU states – Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and the Czech Republic – have also introduced restrictions, an EU-wide ban would require the consent of all 27 members of the union. A spokeswoman for the EU Commission emphasized on Tuesday that the EU states have considerable leeway under their national law to restrict or suspend the issuing of long-term visas.
The Ukrainian demand for an international travel ban for all Russians has triggered heavy criticism in Moscow. “The irrationality of the idea is beyond measure,” criticized Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “Sooner or later, the EU will have to ask itself whether Zelensky is doing everything right and whether its citizens aren’t paying for his whims.” Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president and now deputy head of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, went so far as to call Zelensky “the greatest Ukrainian clown” and accused Estonian Prime Minister Kallas of making “Nazi statements”.
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