The EU and its allies, however, have no choice but to implement the restrictions, Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen has said
Sweeping Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Ukraine conflict harm ordinary Russians, Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen has said, adding, however, that there are no plans to do anything to remedy the situation.
In an interview with the Washington Post released on Monday, Valtonen was asked to comment on whether she believes that the recent decision by Finland and several other EU nations to ban Russian vehicles from entering their territory is fair to Russian citizens.
"Yes, sanctions do hurt normal people," the minister said. She stated, however, that the West cannot abandon or change its sanctions policy. "I don't think we have a choice. Russia and the Russian people do realize that waging such an unfair and illegal war simply comes with a price."
Valtonen added that she hopes Russia will eventually "open up for civil society" and become "a normal democracy." Until then, the West will "have to prepare for the worst," she said.
The foreign minister's remarks come after Helsinki banned most Russians from bringing their personal vehicles into Finland.
The new rules do not apply to EU citizens permanently residing in Russia, their family members, diplomats, or those acting in a humanitarian capacity. Owners of Russian-registered cars that are already in Finland have several months to remove them from the country. Similar restrictions have also been imposed by Poland, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
These countries pledged to ban cars with Russian license plates after the bloc issued a list of frequently asked questions with recommendations on how to enforce the sanctions earlier this month.
The guidelines reiterated that Russian nationals are not allowed to bring a wide range of personal items, including phones, soap, and even toilet paper, into the bloc. Later, however, the EU clarified that officials should act in a "proportionate and reasonable manner," and the main purpose of the restrictions is to prevent the circumvention of sanctions.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denounced the restrictions as "simply racism," while former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suggested suspending diplomatic relations with the bloc.