- Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are banning entry to Russian tourists.
- From September 19, even Russian tourists with Schengen visas will be turned away.
- Finland is the only country that borders Russia but remains open to Russian tourists.
As of Monday, four of the five EU countries that border Russia began rejecting Russian tourists — even if they hold visas for the borderless Schengen area.
“Russia is an unpredictable and aggressive country. Three-quarters of its citizens support war. It is unacceptable that those who support war are free to travel the world and enter EU Lithuania,” said Lithuania’s interior minister Agni Bilotet said on Monday that according to Associated Press. “Such support for hostilities could pose a threat to the security of our country and the EU as a whole.”
“Russians, don’t try to cross the border, you are not welcome here,” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Linkevich tweeted on Friday.
—Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) September 16, 2022
Although EU Russia has banned Russian flights from its airspace due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, and Russian travelers have been traveling to EU countries with borderless Schengen visas, taking circuitous routes to their destinations – or, if their location allows, simply driving across border.
Of the EU countries bordering Russia, only Finland is open to Russian tourists. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said last week that banning visas for Russian tourists could violate the Schengen visa agreement, Reuters reported. However, the country has begun to tighten visa issuance to Russian tourists.
Last week, the EU Schengen visa rules for Russian nationals have also been tightened. According to the European Commission, fewer than 1 million Russians hold valid visas to travel to the Schengen area.
While the EU has tightened visa issuance, the ban on Russian tourists has divided the bloc. Germany and France — the EU’s two largest economies — rejected calls to ban Russian tourists. In particular, there are concerns about restricting the movements of Russians who want to flee the regime of President Vladimir Putin.
“While understanding the concerns of some member states in this situation, we should not underestimate the transformative power of experiencing life first-hand in a democracy, especially for future generations,” read a report by Reuters in late August. “Our visa policy should reflect this and continue to allow human-to-human contact in the EU with Russian nationals not affiliated with the Russian government.”
Exemptions from the travel ban imposed by four EU countries include people travelling for humanitarian reasons, family members of EU citizens, Russian dissidents and serving diplomats, among others. Joint Statement From four countries, published in early September.
If Russian tourists enter from Finland or another EU country, it is unclear how the four countries will enforce the ban within the Schengen zone — where people can move from one country to another without border checks.