Baltic nations shut borders to Russians over Ukraine conflict

WARSAW, Poland — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania closed their borders Monday to most Russian residents in response to the extensive home help in Russia for the conflict in Ukraine.

Below the coordinated journey ban, Russians wishing to journey to the Baltic international locations and to Poland as vacationers or for enterprise, sports activities or cultural functions won’t be allowed in even when they maintain legitimate visas for the European Union’s checks-free Schengen Space.

The prime ministers of the three Baltic nations and of Poland agreed earlier this month to cease admitting Russian residents, saying the transfer would shield the safety of the European Union member international locations neighboring Russia.

“Russia is an unpredictable and aggressive state. Three-quarters of its residents help the conflict. It’s unacceptable that individuals who help the conflict can freely journey around the globe, into Lithuania, the EU,” Lithuanian Inside Minister Agne Bilotaite stated Monday.

“Such help for hostilities can pose threats to the safety of our nation and the EU as an entire,” she added.

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The ban consists of exceptions for humanitarian causes, relations of EU residents, Russian dissidents, serving diplomats, transportation staff and Russians with residence permits or long-stay nationwide visas from the 26 Schengen international locations.

There have been no indications of latest journey restrictions Monday for Russians searching for to enter Poland, regardless that the nation agreed with the Baltic international locations to introduce the ban by Sept. 19. Poland, which borders Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, nonetheless has tight restrictions on Russian vacationers remaining in place from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within the jap Polish metropolis of Bialystok, a member of the Russian Tradition and Schooling Affiliation in Poland stated a brand new ban would have hit a lot tougher if the pandemic restrictions had not already largely restricted journey and alternate contacts with Russia.

“After greater than two years of restrictions, we see no prospects for an enchancment, and that’s the worst half,” Andrzej Romanczuk, a Polish citizen, advised The Related Press.

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The Lithuanian Inside Ministry stated 11 Russian residents had been stopped from getting into that nation beginning at midnight. Most had been attempting to enter by land from Kaliningrad or from Belarus. No incidents had been reported.

Estonian Overseas Minister Urmas Reinsalu stated in an interview with the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat final week that Russian travels posed safety issues as a result of “we all know that Russian spies have used faux IDs and carried out numerous actions in Europe utilizing vacationer visas.”

He additionally cited allegations that Ukrainian refugees in Europe have been compelled to serve wealthy Russians shoppers in spas and different institutions.

“I believe this can be a perverse state of affairs,” Reinsalu stated.

Estonia, a nation of some 1.3 million residents, has registered a whole lot of hundreds of border crossings by Russian residents because the begin of Russia’s conflict on Ukraine.

The international locations can’t, nonetheless, cease Russian residents from getting into by way of one other Schengen nation. They need related measures to be taken by all 27 EU member states, however that has not been agreed up to now, though some journey restrictions – on flights from Russia to the EU – have been already launched. The brand new ban is mainly about land journey.

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The Czech Republic, which doesn’t share a border with Russia, was one of many first EU international locations to cease issuing visas to Russian residents. The federal government in Prague authorized the measure the day after the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

The three Baltic states had been as soon as Soviet Union republics, whereas Poland and Czechia – then a part of Czechoslovakia – had been Moscow’s satellites. That and earlier historical past makes them particularly delicate to Moscow’s aggressive insurance policies.

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AP writers Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania, Jari Tanner in Tallinn, Estonia, and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed.