The first day of Estonia's Russian tourist Schengen visa ban was calm, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) reported on Thursday.
Alexander Kazmin, division head at the Narva crossing border point, told ERR August 18 was a routine day despite the implementation of the government's unprecedented decision.
"It was a regular day. Three people have been turned back to the Russian Federation since midnight," Kazmin said, adding that Russians with Schengen visas issued by other EU countries are still allowed to enter Estonia.
"There has been no change in this regard. We verify the purpose of the trip and ask about the destination of the traveler. We request to see tickets and verify the availability of funds," he added.
There are no visible changes at the border point in Narva, ERR's Russian language portal reported on Thursday. People continue to exit the terminal with large suitcases.
"I entered Estonia with an Italian visa. My plane tickets, including my return tickets, were checked; the atmosphere was friendly," one Russian tourist said.
"I traveled to Estonia by bus. The bus was packed. According to my understanding, every traveler had a visa from a country other than Estonia. I believe everyone is already aware of your country's new laws," the tourist added.
Some visitors were critical of the new rule.
The idea of collective responsibility is ungraspable, said Sergei Kovalchenko, an opposition journalist from St. Petersburg who has an Estonian-issued visa.
"For some reason, Russian citizens have been labeled as accomplices of a regime that they basically did not choose," the journalist said.
Kovalchenko said that in modern-day Russia for many people such as dissidents and journalists a quick departure abroad often means saving their freedom, health, and possibly their life.
Exceptions to the rule
Estonia's ban entered into force on August 18, but a number of exceptions are in place:
- To visit a close relative who lives in Estonia and is an Estonian citizen or has a long-term residence permit;
- Russian diplomats working in Estonia and their family members;
- Staff working in the international transport of goods and passengers;
- Individuals who are allowed entry based on European Union law;
- People who Estonia considers eligible for a visa on humanitarian grounds.
Editor: Kristina Kersa