TALLINN, Estonia: The leaders of Estonia and Finland have said that Russian citizens should not be able to go on holiday in Europe while the Russian government is attacking Ukraine, stressing that fellow European countries should stop issuing tourist visas to Russians.
This week, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas wrote on Twitter that "visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right" and that it is "time to end tourism from Russia now."
Meanwhile, Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin also told Finnish broadcaster YLE, "It is not right that while Russia is waging an aggressive, brutal war of aggression in Europe, Russians can live a normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists."
Also, in a Washington Post interview this week Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy went further, stressing that all Western countries should ban Russian tourists.
Russia is bordered by European Union members Estonia and Finland, which banned air travel from Russian airports after Moscow invaded Ukraine. However, Russians can still travel by land to both countries and can then fly to other European destinations.
Within Russia, the Kremlin's supporters and critics have both criticized the potential travel ban.
Responding to the calls to stop issuing visas to Russians, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, "I think that over time, common sense will somehow manifest itself, and those who made such statements will come to their senses."
Some EU countries, including Latvia, no longer issue visas to Russians.
The Finnish broadcaster reported that the visa issue is expected to be discussed at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers on 31st August.
"I would believe that in future European Council meetings, this issue will come up even more strongly. My personal position is that tourism should be restricted," Marin told Finnish broadcaster YLE.
Peskov said calls for travel bans are usually coming from countries that Moscow has already deemed "hostile" and "many of those countries in their hostility sink into oblivion."
Putin's close associate and deputy head of Russia's Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, dismissed the Estonian premier's statement, adding ominously: "I just want to remind her of another saying: 'The fact that you are free is not your merit, but our flaw.'"
Meanwhile, Zelenskyy told The Washington Post that "the most important sanctions are to close the borders" for Russian travelers, "because the Russians are taking away someone else's land."
Russians should "live in their own world until they change their philosophy," Zelenskyy said, adding that such restrictions should apply to all Russians, even those who left the country and oppose the war.
This contrasts with what he said in March, a month after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine, when he urged Russians to leave the country to avoid funding the war with their taxes.
Asked about Zelenskyy's remarks, Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, called them a "statement ... that speaks for itself," which Moscow views "extremely negatively."