Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, on the left, and her Estonian counterpart, Kaja Kallas. Source: (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, Pool).
The Prime Ministers of Finland and Estonia asked the European Union to stop issuing visas to Russian citizens. The main argument put forward is that it is not acceptable that, while Russia wages war on its neighboring country, devastating it and its population, Russian citizens continue traveling undisturbed in Europe.
The request was made public on Twitter by both ministers. More precisely, the Estonian Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas, stated clearly that it is time to “Stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. Visiting #Europe is a privilege, not a human right. Air travel from RU is shut down. It means while Schengen countries issue visas, neighbours to Russia carry the burden (FI, EE, LV – sole access points). Time to end tourism from Russia now.”
Furthermore, she maintains that the countries bordering Russia are the ones obliged to sustain the burden of receiving hundreds of thousands of Russian tourists as they try to bypass the problem by using terrestrial routes. Accordingly, after the beginning of the war in February and the first sanctions packages, Russia put at the tourists' disposal bus connections from St. Petersburg, only 300 km away from Helsinki to the main Finnish airports.
Likewise, the Finnish Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, in the same tone, expects that the EU will soon discuss the issue. “It is not right that at the same time as Russia is waging an aggressive, brutal war of aggression in Europe, Russians can live a normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists".
Finland and Estonia, along with Latvia, share borders with Russia. While Latvia has already stopped issuing visas to Russian citizens some time ago, the other two countries are determined to follow the same path. This initiative followed the request from the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to deny visas to Russian citizens. His main argument is that Russia will stop invading the West only if access to its citizens is denied, as long as Russians are stealing someone else’s land.
The Ukrainian President’s stance became even harsher after the attacks on the nuclear plant of Zaporizhzhia, where Kyiv and Moscow blamed each other. Accordingly, during a phone call with the European Council President, Charles Michel, he asked for more sanctions on Russian nuclear fuel and its nuclear industry in general. Moreover, it is paramount that access to all Russian citizens, even those who are against the war, be denied.
Meanwhile, Russia’s reaction was immediate and equally harsh. As reported by Euronews, former Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, commented on Kallas's statement, comparing her to a “Nazi”. Likewise, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that "The irrationality of such reasoning goes beyond all limits and can only provoke a negative reaction." He also reiterated that, "Any attempt to isolate the Russians or Russia has no chance of succeeding."
Moreover, according to the same source, in response to Sanna Marin’s comment on the need for restricted tourism from Russia, released to the Finnish Broadcaster YLE, Medvedev clearly replied, "The fact that you are free is not your merit, but our flaw.
Nevertheless, some express their concerns about such a decision. Jukka Kopra, the deputy chairperson of the Coalition’s Parliamentary Group, argues that a total ban could have a serious impact on the Finnish economy in the south-eastern part of the country. Consequently, he suggests that the same filters applied to COVID be implemented. These would concern only some categories of Russians, like those with close relatives or property owners.
On the same line, Veikko Vallin, from the Finns Party (PS), said that the presence of Russians in the region would alleviate the already strained economy as this would improve employment and tax revenues.
It will now be up to the Gymnich summit to take a final decision on the issue. It is clear, however, that such a solution would only exacerbate further an already complex situation.
Edited By: Gwyn St
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