Norway says will close border to Russia tourists

AFP , Thursday 23 May 2024

Norway said Thursday that it will close its border to Russian tourists, shutting their last direct access to Europe's border-free Schengen area, as Moscow vowed to respond to the "discriminatory" measure.

Storskog Boris Gleb border crossing between Norway and Russia near the Norwegian town of Kirkenes, N
Storskog Boris Gleb border crossing between Norway and Russia near the Norwegian town of Kirkenes, Norway, in the far north of the country. AFP

 

As of May 29, the government said that most Russian tourists will not be able to enter Norway, which shares a 198-kilometre (123-mile) border with Russia in its far north.

"The decision to tighten the entry rules is in line with the Norwegian approach of standing by allies and partners in the reactions against Russia's illegal war of aggression against Ukraine," Minister of Justice and Public Security, Emilie Enger Mehl, said in the statement.

Norway, a member of NATO but not of the EU, stopped issuing most tourist visas to Russians in the spring of 2022 after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

But holders of long-term visas that had been issued before or those who had visas from other Schengen member countries could still enter via the Storskog-Boris Gleb border crossing, the only one between the neighbours.

From May 29, they will no longer be able to do so, the statement said.

Exceptions will be made for work and study, and those visiting close family residing in Norway.

Speaking at a daily press briefing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Norway's decision could "obviously not go without a response."

"These are discriminatory decisions, we cannot accept such decisions and we regret that Norwegian authorities have chosen the path aimed at further deteriorating bilateral relations," Peskov told reporters, noting that relations were already strained.

Since the start of the year, 5,102 people with tourist visas have crossed the border from Russia, according to police.

Although not a member of the European Union, Norway works closely with the bloc, which had already adopted similar measures toward Russians in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The Schengen border-free area includes most European countries and allows people to travel freely within its borders.

In April 2023, Norway expelled 15 Russian embassy employees which it deemed to be "intelligence officers".

Norway's domestic intelligence service PST said last week that it expected "that Russia will try to compensate for the loss of intelligence officers."

"They may do this for example by sending more travelling agents," Beate Gangas, head of PST, told a foreign press briefing.

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