A ban on Russian tourists crossing the external borders of the European Union (EU) came into force in Lithuania on 19 September. The same procedure also came into force in Latvia, Estonia and Poland. Viktor Vorontsov, a Russian living in our country, is convinced that this ban is much more severe for Russian citizens than the sanctions or other punishments that have been imposed on them so far, Aurimas Perednis writing in lrytas.lt news portal.
“You have no idea what is happening on social networks in Russia right now, how everybody is reacting – here everybody and Nazis and fascists and Hitler don’t do it, but the Baltic countries do it, we will find a way to enter Schengen and so on.
The reaction shows that this is the most effective decision that has been made since the beginning of the war,” he said in the ” Dienos klausimas” (Question of the Day) programme on Žinių Radijas.
According to the criteria approved by the Government, Lithuanian border guards will continue to allow Russian diplomats, dissidents, employees of transport companies, family members of EU citizens, as well as Russians with residence permits or long-stay national visas from Schengen countries. They will also be able to continue to transit through Lithuania by train to and from Kaliningrad Oblast.
The ban on the admission of Russian citizens is foreseen in the resolution adopted by the Seimas on the declaration of a state of emergency on the border between Russia and Belarus. It will remain in force at least until the 16th of December inclusive.
“I fully agree with the position of our state. This is an excellent decision. It is needed now. All Russian citizens must bear responsibility for this war. We cannot stop Putin. Russian citizens can and must.
Russian citizens must understand that the whole nation bears responsibility for this war, and the first thing that must be accepted is that it will no longer be possible to enter the EU and the Schengen area so easily,” said a Russian living in Lithuania.
He said that the change would be even more beneficial if the whole EU adopted it.
“I hate the position of other EU countries. We – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland – are showing that we are a country with eggs. But the Italians, the French, and the Germans are trying to cut that tail to pieces. We have been cutting it in pieces since 2014, and where is the result?
I think that this decision will have a much stronger impact on Russian society than all the others, including sanctions, put together,” Vorontsov said.
He pointed out that although it is said that the ban on Russian citizens crossing the EU’s external borders will not have much of an impact, as most of them do not travel and do not even have passports, it is not this group of people that should be targeted here at all.
“You know, those who do not have foreign passports do not influence the state. Those Russian citizens with foreign passports, who have homes in Spain or elsewhere, are making the current decisions. It is these people who are affected by our decision,” he assured.
He sees gaps in disunity
Vorontsov was critical of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz‘s remarks that Russian citizens should not be responsible for what their Government does.
“I may be very harsh, but why did the entire German nation bear responsibility for what Hitler did after the Second World War? I respect the Chancellor, but I think he is thinking first of all of the Russian speakers who live in Germany, who are voters and who may vote for his party in the next elections. That should not be the case.
We must think about the threats from the current Putin regime. We must combat that threat by all means. In general, the EU, the Schengen area countries must ban the issuance of tourist visas to Russian citizens”, the man explained.
A Russian living in Lithuania regretted that the EU’s uneven position opens many loopholes in the new ban.
In Lithuania, a ban on Russian tourists crossing the EU’s external borders came into force on Monday.
“The Russians are taking advantage of this. I am looking at the situation now and how people are reacting. Everybody goes to Finland, and then from Finland, they either fly with AirBaltic via Riga or Vilnius, or they take a ferry to Tallinn and then drive from Tallinn. Same situation, with Moscow-Istanbul being a very popular destination, followed by Spain, Italy and France.
We have to show our rigour. Estonia must not allow people with Russian visas to enter Estonian territory. We must put the same controls in place at the internal borders.
If we decide that there should be such a procedure, we have to implement our decision”, Vorontsov said.
18 Russian citizens have already been refused entry
A total of 18 people have so far been refused entry to Lithuania following the introduction of stricter admission procedures for Russian citizens by the Baltic States and Poland on the first day.
According to BNS, Giedrius Mišutis, a spokesman for the State Border Guard Service (SBGS), as of 16:00, approximately equal numbers of Russian citizens have been refused entry at checkpoints on both the Lithuanian-Russian and Lithuanian-Belarusian borders since midnight on Monday.
At the same time, Latvian border guards reported that no decisions had been taken to refuse Russian citizens, while Estonian officials reported that up to ten persons had been refused entry. Polish border guards did not provide statistics.
According to Lithuanian Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė, the decision not to admit Russian citizens was “dictated by national security interests”.
“Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine continues, and as many as three-quarters of Russian citizens support the war in Ukraine, and such people, who seek to undermine the security of our security and that of the EU’s neighbouring countries, are also among those entering Lithuania.
These threats pose a risk to national security interests and warrant stricter individual screening of incoming Russian citizens,” the Minister said.
According to Ms Bilotaitė, this is expected to act as a deterrent to prevent Russian citizens who do not meet the criteria set by the Government from trying to enter the country. She noted that such a solution is also being considered for Belarusian citizens.
When refusing to allow a Russian citizen who does not meet the criteria to enter the territory of Lithuania, the SSAT officials will have the right to cancel or revoke their visa.
According to the head of the SSAT, Rustam Lyubayev, the officials may allow Russian citizens to enter the country, for example, to attend the funeral of a relative, or in some other cases, on humanitarian grounds, but in each case, it is necessary to provide evidence and the prescribed documents.
Only holders of D-type long-stay visas are allowed to enter Lithuania, while holders of C-type visas, which used to allow them to stay in Lithuania for 90 days a year, are no longer allowed to cross the border.
To prove that the Russian authorities are persecuting them, they must present a summons, a court order or similar documents from the police and information circulated in the public domain.
“It is planned that border guards will also assess the attitude of each arriving citizen towards the war in Ukraine, which will also be one of the arguments used to decide whether or not to admit a person,” he said.