Estonia has reduced the possibilities to apply for residence permits and study visas for Russians and Belarusians, the government said on Thursday.
Russian citizens can no longer apply for a temporary residence permit or visa for the purpose of studying in Estonia. Belarusians can still apply for study visas.
Additionally, citizens of Russia and Belarus who are working in the country but have no legal right to stay in Estonia, for example while on a visa issued by another EU Member State, will not be granted a temporary residence permit or allowed to work either, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said at the government's press conference.
Reinsalu also highlighted threats of "countermeasures" made by the Russian government's spokesman Dmitry Peskov yesterday if Finland stops issuing tourist visas to Russians.
"I think these threats show that imposing entry bans is inconvenient for Russia. This is certainly a signal to us that, therefore, we have to work towards it," he said.
The foreign minister said Estonia has stopped issuing visas to Russian citizens living in Estonia, except in specific humanitarian cases. He said there are currently more than 50,000 valid visas issued to Russian citizens.
"We are preparing additional European Union sanction proposals concerning the issuance of future Schengen visas, but it is also necessary to revise the validity of previously issued visas. Both in Estonia and in Europe," Reinsalu said.
Estonia stopped issuing visas to Russian citizens in February but those who had previously received a visa could still enter the country. Estonia cannot prevent Russians with a valid Schengen visa issued by another Member State from entering the EU.
Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright