Estonia has joined fellow Baltic states Latvia and Lithuania in banning vehicles with Russian number plates from entering their territory.
The move follows the European Union’s updated interpretation of sanctions against Moscow over its war on Ukraine, published last Friday.
Latvia and Lithuania had already imposed the measure this week when Estonia confirmed on Wednesday it followed “the additional interpretation of sanctions”.
“The goal of the sanctions against Russia is to force the aggressor country to retreat to its borders,” Estonian Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets said in a statement.
“We found in consultation with the Latvian and Lithuanian authorities that the restrictions are most effective when sanctions are imposed jointly.”
Under the EU’s decision, vehicles registered in Russia are no longer allowed to enter the territory of the 27-member bloc, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The Baltic states – which are all NATO members bordering Russia – have been among the most vocal critics of Vladimir Putin.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, on Tuesday denounced the European Commission’s move as “racist”.
He suggested Moscow could suspend diplomatic ties with the EU and recall diplomats in retaliation.
Reacting to Estonia’s decision on Wednesday, Andrei Klishas, head of the constitutional legislation committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Russia should respond in kind.
“Only retaliatory restrictions mirroring that could lead to the lifting of such EU rules,” he said.
How would the ban work?
The ban applies regardless of the reason for the trip, but will not affect diplomatic vehicles.
Vehicles with Russian number plates are allowed to leave Estonia or cross the internal borders of the EU, the interior ministry said, while the same applies to Latvia and Lithuania.
“We cannot allow the citizens of an aggressor state to enjoy the benefits offered by freedom and democracy, while Russia is continuing its genocide in Ukraine,” Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said in a statement.
Estonia’s government is set to discuss on Thursday what to do with Russia-registered vehicles already in the country.
The customs agency of Lithuania has turned back 36 vehicles with Russian number plates from the border in the past 48 hours, it said.
Russian citizens are able to continue transiting through Lithuania to and from Kaliningrad – a Russian exclave bordering the country – by train.