As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Estonia has banned motor vehicles with Russian license plates from entering the country, as they are subject to EU sanctions.
With this step, Estonia has adhered to new guidelines issued by the European Commission (link to PDF) on Friday, September 8 regarding the enforcement of existing sanctions, according to which which EU member states may not allow cars with Russian license plates into the EU.
This ban applies not just to private vehicles, but also to company transport operations. Enforcement of these sanctions is mandatory for member states.
"Sanctions against Russia have one goal —to force the aggressor state to retreat to its state borders," Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) said Wednesday, commenting on the move.
"Insofar as the European Commission newly further clarified the current sanction and Estonia considers it necessary to utilize all opportunities to raise the price of aggression for Russia, we found in consultation with Latvian and Lithuanian authorities that restrictions are most effective when jointly enforcing sanctions," Läänemets continued.
Starting from today, in 1⃣6⃣ minutes to be precise, #Estonia will deny entry to all Russian registered vehicles.— Margus Tsahkna (@Tsahkna) September 13, 2023
They are not welcome here to enjoy privileges freedom has to offer until #Ukraine has achieved victory.
In accordance with the Commission guidelines, the motor vehicle entry ban applies regardless of the owner or driver's grounds for their stay in Estonia or the EU.
Vehicles with Russian plates will be permitted to leave Estonia and/or cross the EU's internal borders.
Upon the arrival of a vehicle with Russian plates at an Estonian border checkpoint, the Estonian Tax and Customs Board (MTA) will perform the relevant procedures. The driver or owner of a vehicle subject to the entry ban will thereafter either have to return to Russia together with the vehicle or cross the border without it.
Tsahkna: Not while Russia continues Ukrainian genocide
"The decision to ban cars with Russian license plates from entering Estonia is the right thing to do, and I am glad that the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Finance have promptly implemented it," Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) said in a statement released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
As he had noted Tuesday, the Commission's updated guidelines regarding cars with Russian plates are completely in line with Estonia's foreign policy interests, positions and sanctions policy, Tsahkna continued.
"As early as tomorrow, I will consult with the government and raise the issue of dealing with Russian-registered vehicles that are already here," he added.
The Estonian foreign minister is scheduled for a video meeting with representatives of other border states on Wednesday, where this issue will top the agenda.
"As a country bordering Russia, Estonia considers it important to implement restrictions of this kind with neighbors, and I welcome the fact that Latvia and Lithuania have already made a similar decision," he said, reiterating that restrictions are more impactful when implemented jointly, thus also allowing them to further raise the cost of Russian aggression.
"We cannot allow the citizens of an aggressor state to enjoy the benefits offered by freedom and democracy while Russia is continuing its genocide in Ukraine," Tsahkna emphasized.
Editor: Aili Vahtla