COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Norway said Thursday it would further tighten its restrictions on people entering from Russia, warning that those with tourist visas issued by Norway before controls were tightened in 2022, or issued by another European country, would not be able to enter the Scandinavian country from next week.

The measure is in response to Russia’s “illegal war of aggression against Ukraine,” said Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl.

Norway has a 198-kilometer (123-mile) border with Russia in the Arctic.

The Aftenposten, a leading Norwegian daily, indicated last week that the Norwegian internal security agency, known by the acronym PST, was concerned that Russians involved in espionage were entering through the only border crossing, at Storskog, near the town of Kirkenes.

“Now Russia is benefiting from carrying out sabotage in European countries to weaken Ukrainian defense capabilities,” Inger Haugland, head of counter-espionage for the PST, said Wednesday. He gave no further details.

The PST updated its overall security assessment Wednesday and said it “appears” that the threat of sabotage has risen against Norwegian companies producing weaponry destined for Ukraine.

Enger Mehl noted that exceptions to the new entry restrictions would be made, for example for people visiting close relatives in Norway or for Russians studying or working in Norway. People living next to the border have border resident certificates. Other Russian citizens planning to enter Norway for tourism or “other non-essential purposes” will be denied entry, he added. The ban was to take effect next Wednesday.

“Of course, such decisions cannot go unchallenged,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “The decision is purely discriminatory.”

Although Norway is not a member of the European Union, it is part of the free movement area known as the Schengen Zone, which allows more than 400 million Europeans and visitors to move around the region without showing their travel documents at internal borders.

The Norwegian government stopped issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens two years ago. In September it banned the entry of Russian-registered passenger cars, a reflection of EU sanctions against Moscow over its war in Ukraine.

Categorized in: