Riga, Latvia, Aug 11 (EFE).- The Estonian government Thursday decided to sharply reduce the number of Russian citizens holding Schengen visas allowed to enter the Baltic country.
According to an official statement, Estonia will no longer issue visas to most Russian citizens and, from August 18, will ban the entry of almost all Russians holding visas issued by Estonia.
But local media reported that the measure, announced at a government press conference by foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu, would apply only to visas issued by Estonian authorities.
It is not clear whether Russians holding visas from other Schengen zone countries will be allowed to travel to Estonia.
Reinsalu told journalists this issue would be taken up with the European Union by the end of the month.
“We have seen an enormous rise in the number of Russian citizens coming into or passing through Estonia,” Reinsalu said, according to a government statement.
“The possibility they have to visit Estonia, or other parts of Europe via Estonia, en masse is not in line with the principles of the sanctions we have imposed. In implementing them, Estonia sought to restrict the ability of the aggressor state to carry on with ordinary international life at the levels of both the state and its citizens,” the Estonian foreign minister emphasized.
The visa ban will also not apply to Russian diplomatic staff and families, transport workers, people visiting close relatives, persons admitted for humanitarian reasons and “those who have the right to freedom of movement under EU law.” Russians with permanent residence in Estonia will also not be affected.
A government statement also said that “as an exception, the residence permits of students in Estonia who are due to complete their studies at an Estonian institution of higher education will be extended for one year.”
The new restrictions come after Estonia in late July limited Russian citizens from applying for new temporary residence permits or study visas.