From Monday, September 19, entry restrictions for Russian citizens with tourist visas for the Schengen area will come into force in the Baltic States and Poland. At the Narva border crossing, the situation appears to be calm and the number of crossings is much lower compared to the summer, public broadcaster ERR reports.
According to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, since the start of the war in Ukraine, Estonia has become the second most frequent entry point for Russian citizens into the EU.
Since the suspension of air traffic between Russia and the European Union at the end of February, nearly 300,000 Russian citizens have crossed the Narva Bridge from Russia to Estonia. From Narva, many travel on to Italy, France and other destinations in the Schengen area, while some have also spent their vacation time in Estonia.
However, the majority of Russian citizens entering Estonia through the Narva border crossing are local residents with Estonian residence permits who are visiting relatives or on a business trip.
According to Marek Liiva, director of the border checkpoint in Narva, the number of border crossings in September has been rather low so far.
“The number of border crossings has already decreased compared to summer time,” said Liiva.
Currently, nearly 4,000 people cross the border from Russia to Narva every day, three times fewer than before the coronavirus pandemic and the start of the Russian war in Ukraine. Before the new restrictions, between ten and twenty people were being sent back to Russia from the Narva border every day. Whether that number will increase, however, remains to be seen.
Russian tourists arriving in Narva used to be eager to discuss their travel plans (with journalists at the border). However, they are now more cautious and generally seem concerned about the coming restrictions.
Aleksandr from St. Petersburg said he was very disappointed that he could no longer enter the EU via Estonia. “We’re going to Italy for the holidays. For tourism only. We do not yet know where we will be vacationing as it is not clear yet. Traveling is becoming more complicated,” he said.
In addition to Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have also closed their borders to Russian tourists.
However, the exceptions apply to Russian diplomats, dissidents, employees of transport companies, family members of EU citizens and Russians with residence permits or national long-stay visas from Schengen countries.
Despite the ban, some Russian citizens attempted to enter Lithuania through the Kybartai checkpoint on Monday, September 19, but others attempted to enter through the Lithuanian-Belarusian border.
Nevertheless, Russian citizens can travel through Lithuania by train to and from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
Meanwhile, restrictions imposed by the Cabinet of Ministers (MK) of the Republic of Latvia on the entry of Russian citizens – holders of short-term Schengen visas – to Latvia for non-essential purposes such as tourism and recreation came into force.