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Russian journalist Yaroslav Varenik denied entry into Estonia
Yaroslav Varenik, a journalist from Arkhangelsk, was denied entry to into Estonia by border guards after they could not confirm his hostel reservation. Varenik reported the incident on his social networks. "I'm hitchhiking to St. Petersburg because I was banned from entering Estonia and had my visa revoked," Varenik wrote. In the certificate issued to the journalist (of which Meduza has a copy), Varenik was informed that, "the conditions and purpose of stay were not justified."
On the night of August 14, Varenik arrived at the Russian-Estonian border in Narva by bus. He had a tourist visa issued by Estonia. According to the journalist, he first spent seven hours on the Russian border.
[Russian border guards] asked me if I made sacrifices, how I felt about Satanists. Then they paid a lot of attention to Alexey Navalny. They asked about my attitude to the war... They read my messages in Whatsapp and Telegram. If they didn't like the answers [to their questions], they shouted, "Are you stupid? They threatened me with a criminal case for insulting the feelings of believers. They came up and hovered over me. The bus left without me.
After Varenik was released from the Russian border, he was detained for two hours at the Estonian border post, the journalist told Dozhd. Border guards inspected his belongings and tried to check his hostel reservation, but were unable to do so and issued a certificate canceling his visa.
In a conversation with Meduza, Yaroslav Varenik stressed that the reservation was canceled because he used a Russian bank card to make the booking on Booking.com.
I was visiting a friend with a tourist visa and booked for two nights in a hostel in Tallinn, but they cancelled my reservation in the morning because of the Russian card. Well, I booked a hostel on Booking.com, they let me do it with my Russian card. And this reservation was valid until 10 am today, but at 10 am it was canceled, and at 11 am I was denied the visa.
Yaroslav Varenik said that he was able to make a reservation in Tallinn with a Russian card, because he was specifically looking for an option to pay on arrival. Varenik stressed that he didn’t go to the EU to emigrate, but for a vacation that he planned to spend in Estonia and Finland. After the incident, Varenik discovered that Booking.com blocked his account on August 8.
In 2019, Yaroslav Varenik had his bank account searched and seized as part of an investigation into the Anti-Corruption Foundation, and in July 2021, he was summoned for questioning as a witness in the same case. In February 2022, the journalist told Meduza, he was questioned in a case against Alexei Navalny. In addition, Dozhd reported that Varenik was fined in 2019 under a law on extremism, because of a news article he published. In it, he talked about an Arkhangelsk resident who was also fined for extremism.
Estonia announced this week that, as of August 18, it would prohibit Russian citizens who have Schengen visas issued in Estonia from entering its territory. It will still be possible to enter Estonia with visas issued by other Schengen countries, but the government is looking into ways to prevent Russian citizens with any tourist visas from entering the country.
On the night of August 13, two employees of the Russian newspaper Izvestia were expelled from Estonia. According to the authorities, the two journalists, who had come to Estonia on tourist visas, were carrying out propaganda activities in Narva. Work while traveling for tourism purposes is a violation of the visa regime. The two journalists have been banned from entering Estonia for three years.
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