10 Russians denied entry to Estonia on first day of Schengen visa ban
Ten Russian citizens were denied entry to Estonia on Monday, the first day new restrictions on Schengen visas issued by other EU member states entered into force.
By noon, the ban had not created additional work for Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) officials at the Narva crossing.
Information about the new rules has spread in Russia and not many people have been turned back, the head of the Narva border crossing, Marek Liiva, told ERR.
"In total, within 12 hours due to the new restriction, we have stopped six Russian citizens from coming to Estonia, all of these cases were in Narva," Liiva said.
By 4 p.m. this number had risen to 10.
Speaking about the circumstances for denying entry, Liiva said one person knew about the restriction but wanted to try anyway.
In several cases, people wanted to visit close relatives living in Estonia but did not realize they can only do so if family members have long-term residency permits not temporary.
In another, a person wanted to see a grandson living in Estonia, but questioning revealed he did not live in the country.
Before the ban entered into force, approximately 4,000 people tried to cross the border from Russia to Narva every day. This is three times more than during the coronavirus and before the war. Russia lifted its last remaining coronavirus travel restrictions this summer.
Liiva said, at the moment, those who cross the eastern border are usually Russians with Estonian residence permits. Almost 1,000 people in this category cross the border each day.
Data from the European Union Border Guard Agency shows, since Russia's war in Ukraine began in February, Estonia has been the second most popular place to cross a land border into the EU.
Since the end of February, almost 300,000 Russian citizens have entered the EU through Estonia. They mostly move on to other EU countries and have been issued Schengen visas by other member states.
Latvia, Lithuania and Poland also closed their borders to Russian citizens on Monday. The only country where Russians can now enter the EU is Finland. Air traffic between Russia and the EU was halted in February.
Last week, top officials from the Baltics and Poland said this is not a complete ban and that a number of exceptions apply.
These include dissidents, humanitarian cases, family members, holders of residence permits, for the facilitation of freight and transportation services and diplomatic missions.
Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reported that 11 people had been turned away by noon.
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Editor: Helen Wright