(Bloomberg) -- Estonia will pursue a blanket Schengen visa ban on Russian nationals if the European Union doesn’t reach an agreement, its Foreign Ministry said, closing off one of the few land borders after the bloc halted flights from Russia.
The plan threatens to divide EU members as some leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have said they would not support a wholesale ban on travel visas. Estonia will present the proposal to the European Commission ahead of a meeting with EU foreign ministers where sanctions will be discussed later this month.
Estonia enforced a travel ban on Russian nationals who hold the 50,000 work and tourist visas issued by the Baltic nation on Thursday. Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu has been seeking support to extend the restrictions to all EU visas as part of the bloc’s next sanctions package.
Estonia is working with EU partners to enact “sanctions to stop the travel of the nationals of the aggressor state Russia,” Reinsalu said in an emailed statement Friday.
His spokesman, Mihkel Tamm, said Estonia is prepared to go forward unilaterally, and could proceed with a ban before a potential EU deal is reached.
Estonia, Latvia and Finland have become the main entry points by land into the EU for Russian nationals after the ban on flights. All three countries have said they would support an EU-wide visa ban, with the aim of hitting the Kremlin by putting pressure on ordinary Russians.
Estonia had seen an uptick in Russians entering the country since Moscow lifted Covid-19 restrictions in July, many of whom have visas from other EU members. The bloc’s Schengen area allows passport- and border-free travel within the zone stretching from the Arctic to the Mediterranean Sea.
(Updates most paragraphs, adds foreign minister tweet and statement)
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