Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) and Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) are critical of Russia's decision to deny Ukrainian citizens entry from border crossing points in Estonia.
Russia on October 10 sent Estonia a diplomatic note saying that Ukrainian citizens' entry to Russia via land border crossings will be temporarily limited starting October 16. Exceptions to the rule are the Vientuli-Ludonka border crossing between Latvia and Russia in the Pskov Oblast and the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow. The new rules apply to all Ukrainian citizens who are at least 14 years of age and those under 14 years of age who are accompanied by a legal representative or guardian not of Russian citizenship.
Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets told ERR's Russian portal that the decision has put Ukrainians who have sought refuge in Europe in a difficult situation as the step amounts to closing the Russian border and severely limiting Ukrainians' possibilities to return home.
The minister said that Estonia will do everything in its power to help Ukrainians return home and assist Latvia with any problems migratory pressure might cause to avoid a humanitarian crisis on the Latvian border.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna said that closing most of the border to Ukrainian refugees will put immense pressure on the Latvian border and border guard. He said that the two countries' presidents spoke Wednesday, and that he plans to phone his Latvian colleague today.
Läänemets recalled that Russia restricted Ukranian refugees' access to Estonia via the Luhamaa border crossing a year ago.
"It caused a humanitarian crisis, because people who had been waiting to cross the border for days were exhausted and sick once they arrived in Estonia. Now, Russia is attempting a similar hybrid operation, only they want the crisis in Latvia this time by sending all Ukrainians from Finland, Estonia or Latvia looking to return home to eastern Ukraine to a single tiny border point in Latvia," Läänemets said.
127 Ukrainian citizens crossed from Estonia to Russia on average every day between September 1 to October 10, all of whom would have to travel to Latvia upon the ban's entry into force.
Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski