Norway has announced a strict new policy that will almost completely restrict Russian tourists from entering the country starting May 29th, as part of its ongoing response to Russia’s military actions in Ukraine. The Norwegian Justice Ministry’s decision reflects a deepening rift between the two nations, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

The new regulation primarily targets Russian citizens who are traveling for tourism or other non-essential reasons, barring them from entering Norway. However, exceptions will be made for those visiting close family members or individuals with specific visas for work or study. The move builds on initial visa restrictions imposed in 2022 shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.

Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl articulated that this measure aligns with Norway’s commitment to supporting its allies and standing against what it views as Russia’s unlawful military aggression. This policy adds to a series of actions Norway has taken, including a ban on Russian-registered passenger vehicles, reflecting broader European Union sanctions.

In response to these stringent measures, Russian officials have expressed their displeasure, labeling the decision as discriminatory. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov conveyed Moscow’s dissatisfaction, indicating that the decision could lead to further deterioration in bilateral relations, which have already been tense. He hinted at potential Russian countermeasures, though specifics were not provided.

In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also commented on the situation, suggesting that while Norway’s citizens wouldn’t be barred from Russia, retaliatory actions are to be expected. These statements underscore the escalating friction between Norway and Russia, particularly concerning security and diplomatic engagements.

On a broader scale, the issue ties into larger security concerns within Europe. Norway’s domestic security agency, PST, has raised alarms about potential espionage and sabotage by Russians entering the country, particularly through the sole border crossing at Storskog near Kirkenes. The PST’s head of counterespionage, Inger Haugland, warned of increased threats of sabotage aimed at weakening Ukrainian defense capabilities.

The situation is part of a wider pattern seen across Europe, where several countries, especially those bordering Russia like Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, have tightened their borders to Russian nationals. These measures reflect growing anxieties over security and the influence of Russian activities in Europe amidst the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Norway, while not a member of the European Union, is part of the Schengen Area, which typically allows for passport-free travel across many European countries. This makes the travel restrictions particularly notable, as they signify a significant shift in policy towards Russia within this normally open travel zone.

As Norway implements these new entry restrictions, the international community watches closely. The move not only affects Russian citizens planning to travel to Norway but also sets a precedent for how countries might continue to respond to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. With tensions already high, the potential for further diplomatic strife looms, as both Norway and Russia navigate this complex and rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape.

Green = Norway
Orange = Russia
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