Baltic nations close borders to Russians over Ukraine war

20 September 2022
 Baltic nations close borders to Russians over Ukraine war

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania closed their borders Monday to most Russian citizens in response to the wide domestic support in Russia for the war in Ukraine

Under the coordinated travel ban, Russians wishing to travel to the Baltic countries as tourists or for business, sports or cultural purposes will not be allowed in even if they hold valid visas for the European Union’s checks-free Schengen Area.

The prime ministers of the three Baltic nations and Poland agreed earlier this month to stop admitting Russian citizens, saying the move would protect the security of the four European Union member nations.

“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.

“Such support for hostilities can pose threats to the security of our country and the EU as a whole,” she added.

The ban includes exceptions for humanitarian reasons, family members of EU citizens, Russian dissidents, serving diplomats, transportation employees and Russians with residence permits or long-stay national visas from the 26 Schengen countries.

Poland’s interior minister, Mariusz Kaminski, signed regulations Monday that will put the central European nation’s war-related ban on Russian travelers into effect on Sept. 26. Poland, which borders Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, still has tight restrictions on foreign visitors remaining from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the eastern Polish city of Bialystok, a member of the Russian Culture and Education Association in Poland said a new ban would have hit much harder if the pandemic restrictions had not already largely limited travel with Russia.

“After more than two years of restrictions, we see no prospects for an improvement, and that is the worst part,” Andrzej Romanczuk, a Polish citizen, told The Associated Press.

He said regions on both sides of Poland’s border with Kaliningrad will be hit economically because border traffic there drives local trade. Russians also shop in Polish cities like Warsaw or Krakow.

Over 65,000 Russians have crossed into Poland this year, similar to the same period last year but 10 times smaller than before the pandemic.