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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Norway shrinks bottleneck for Russian visitors

Norway's tightening of its borders to reject Russian tourists heading into summer break, continuing sanctions due to Ukraine invasion, sparked claims of discrimination by the Kremlin.

(CN) — Russian tourists wishing to visit Norway this summer might have to look for another destination. The Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security on Thursday announced that it will deny the group entry starting on May 29.

The Nordic-NATO member, which shares an Arctic border with Russia almost 200 km (124 miles) long, had already imposed restrictions on Russian tourist visas in 2022, along with fellow Schengen members, after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“The decision to tighten the entry rules is in line with the Norwegian line of standing together with allies and partners in the reactions against Russia's illegal war of aggression against Ukraine,” said Emilie Enger Mehl, Norwegian justice and emergency minister, in a news release.

Norwegian police now can deport Russian citizens visiting for tourism or other non-essential travel, including those who had visas issued before the tightening in 2022 or by other Schengen countries.

Mehl told the Norwegian newspaper VG that the timing of the decision to tighten the rules was deliberate. With the summer break coming up, the new rules will affect Russian tourists who are unwanted in Norway.

“The tightening we are doing now mainly affects those who have a visa for several trips or with a long duration or those who have received a visa issued by other countries,” Mehl said.

Norway’s initiative received an immediate response from the Kremlin on Thursday.

“We must respond to such decisions. It is simply discriminatory,” said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a press briefing, according to Norwegian newswire NTB.

“We do not accept such decisions. The bilateral relations have already been of poor quality recently, and not on our initiative,” Peskov said.

Dmitrii Bondarenko Griffin, chairman of Smårådina, a Norwegian-Russian organization that advocates for democracy in Russia and has taken a stance against the attack on Ukraine, told broadcaster NRK that the ban will affect Russians living in exile who have a residence permit outside the Schengen area, such as in the UK or the U.S.

The rules have become so complicated that some airlines refuse to fly Russians to a destination that allows entry, he said, using the neighboring Finland as an example.

In addition, the closed border could provide fuel for the Kremlin’s message to its citizens.

“It will also reinforce Putin's propaganda narrative that the West hates Russians, unconditionally, just because they have a Russian passport. That is what is repeated every day on Russian TV channels,” Griffin said.

Finland had planned to reopen its Russian border in February, but decided to extend the closure instead. Last year, Finland claimed that Russia used migrants as weapons when people from various countries including Syria and Somalia started to cross the border into the Nordic country.

Russians in certain cases will still be permitted to enter Norway, for instance to visit close family members (parents, spouses, cohabitants and children) living in the Nordic country, or to work or study in Norway and other Schengen countries.

Follow @LasseSrensen13
Categories / International, Politics, Travel

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