Russian citizen visits to Estonia down threefold since before Covid

Vehicles with Russian plates queuing to cross the border.
Vehicles with Russian plates queuing to cross the border. Source: ERR

While vehicles with Russian license plates can still be seen on the streets of Tallinn, the number of Russian Federation citizens arriving in Estonia is down three or even fourfold since before the coronavirus period. The main reason for this has to do with visa restrictions.

"The number of trips Russian citizens make to Estonia has fallen considerably following the attack on Ukraine and the sanctions this sparked. Comparing the situation today to before Covid, the number of Russian citizens coming to Estonia via terrestrial border crossing points has fallen three or even fourfold," Ilmar Kahro, press representative for the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), told ERR.

He added that the numbers for Russian citizens coming to Estonia were even lower in 2020 and 2021 when coronavirus restrictions were in effect.

Kahro said that Russian citizens are not issued tourist visas or allowed into Estonia as tourists due to sanctions.

"A Russian citizen is allowed to enter Estonia if they have an Estonian or another EU country's residence permit. People are also allowed in to visit immediate family and following extraordinary humanitarian considerations, such as funerals," the PPA spokesperson said.

"The lion's share of around one thousand Russian citizens crossing the border daily has the right to live in Estonia," Kahro emphasized.

Over the first four months of 2023, the PPA has blocked 630 Russian citizens from entering Estonia. "The main reason for blocking access is that the person does not have the right to enter Estonia due to sanctions. People sometimes mistakenly think it is possible to visit a relative with a fixed-term residence permit, while this is no longer the case," Kahro said.

"We sometimes discover that the person has a different reason for coming to Estonia than what they said on the border. We have also denied entry to persons we believe might pose a threat to public order or security in Estonia," he added.

Limited ties between Estonia and Russia, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, have seen a sharp decline in the number of visa applications for entering Estonia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in January.

The number of Russian citizens' visa applications fell 60 percent in 2022 year over year and 89 percent compared to 2019 when 124,546 applications were processed.

Estonia stopped accepting visa applications from Russian and Belarusian citizens in its representative offices in the two countries from March 10, 2022. Exceptions are in place for those looking to visit family members, humanitarian considerations and a few other cases.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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