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The opposition in the Lithuanian Seimas on Tuesday demanded answers from ministers as to why such a large number of Russian citizens have recently crossed the country's border.
Parliament opposition demands answers over influx of Russians
© AFP / Scanpix

The latest figures show almost 10,000 Russian citizens arrived in Lithuania last week despite the existing ban on the entry of Russian tourists to Lithuania. Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told lawmakers that most of them were either transiting through to Kaliningrad or were truck drivers working for companies in other countries, adding that such people are subject to exceptions.

"We started the session with the first question. The prime minister said we had to extend the state of emergency, and it was stressed that we were doing so to prevent Russian citizens from entering Lithuania. Today, we hear that almost 10,000 Russian citizens have entered Lithuania from Russia, while only 150 have been refused entry," Dainius Gaizauskas, a representative of the opposition Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, said before the Seimas agenda was approved. "I would like urgent inclusion of the item of why Russian citizens are flooding into Lithuania, and not even to start the sitting without addressing this issue."

Attending the parliament sitting, the foreign minister then replied that most of the arrivals were people transiting Kaliningrad, as well as other Russian citizens who were allowed to cross the border under agreements between Lithuania, Russia and the European Union.

"Lithuania has an international obligation to allow Russian citizens traveling by train to Kaliningrad to cross the border. And they are counted. (...) Russian citizens with Schengen visas who are driving trucks belonging to third countries, not Russia, but perhaps Lithuania and other countries, are allowed to cross the border because Russian vehicles are simply sanctioned," Landsbergis said.

"In any case, the number of border-crossing persons includes people from those two groups. People traveling for tourist purposes are mostly excluded," he said.

Arrivals in detail

An average of 1,260 Russian citizens were allowed to enter Lithuania per day last week, according to data from Lithuania's State Border Guard Service.

Almost half of them – about 650 – were traveling with Kaliningrad transit documents. Up to 28 percent, or 360 people, had Schengen visas, and about 17 percent, or 210, Russian citizens had residence permits to live in an EU country.

Another 35 Russians, or 3 percent of the arrivals, had Lithuanian national visas. The rest were visa-free travelers, i.e. sailors and consular staff arriving in the port of Klaipeda with Schengen accreditation certificates.

Some 40 percent of Russian citizens allowed to enter Lithuanian in September were truck drivers, Saulius Nekrasevicius, a spokesman for the SBGS, told BNS. "It should be noted that the flow varies when weekdays are compared, and there are fluctuations (...) ranging from 1,004 to 2,021 arrivals."

A total of 9,896 Russian citizens arrived in Lithuania during the first week of restrictions, which is down around 45 percent compared to the number of arrivals before the restrictions were introduced.

Meanwhile, 153 Russians were refused entry last week.

As of September 19, only those who meet the criteria approved by the government are allowed to enter the Baltic states and Poland. These include Russian diplomats, dissidents, employees of transport companies, family members of EU citizens, as well as Russians with residence permits or long-stay national visas from Schengen countries.

Russian citizens can also continue to transit through Lithuania by train to and from the Kaliningrad region.

The ban on the admission of Russian citizens is part of a resolution adopted by the Lithuanian Seimas on the declaration of a state of emergency in Lithuanian areas bordering Russia and Belarus. It will remain in force at least until December 16.

Regional countries introduced travel restrictions for Russian citizens amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

BNS
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