Finland moves to block more Russians on eastern border

September 24, 2022
Buses and cars queue to cross the border from Russia to Finland at the Vaalimaa border check point in Virolahti, Finland, Friday. — courtesy photo
Buses and cars queue to cross the border from Russia to Finland at the Vaalimaa border check point in Virolahti, Finland, Friday. — courtesy photo

HELSINKI — Finland is going to "significantly" restrict the entry of Russian citizens to its territory by refusing access to those with tourist visas from any European country in the Schengen area.

The Nordic nation, which has seen an increase in Russians entering its land border since Moscow announced the mobilization of reservists for the war in Ukraine, is aligning itself with the decision taken at the beginning of September by Poland and the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), the four other European Union countries bordering Russia.

Finland has the EU's longest border with Russia at over 1,300km.

"After the government's decision, it can come into force very quickly," Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said at a Friday press conference, without giving a specific date.

"Those who cross the border for tourism will be prevented from entering. There will have to be another reason," he explained.

The new Finnish decision applies both to visas granted by Finland and those issued by any other Schengen country, the Finnish diplomatic chief said.

Previously, Finland had decided to drastically reduce the number of visas it issues to Russians at its embassy and consulates in Russia, making only a hundred visa appointments available per day instead of a thousand.

But Helsinki has so far not placed any restrictions on Russians with tourist visas issued by other Schengen area countries.

While other nations had cited security reasons for stopping Russian tourists at the border, Finland took a different path to arrive at the same decision, citing "serious damage to Finland's international position."

Helsinki has been calling for a common European position on the issue for two months.

But the Finnish decision also coincides with the order for the partial mobilization of reservists issued on Wednesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Since the order, the number of Russians entering Finland has doubled, although it remains at a limited level, according to the Finnish border guards. On Thursday, it exceeded 6,000, compared to about 3,000 at the beginning of the week.

At the beginning of the summer, the lifting of anti-Covid restrictions on both the Russian and Finnish sides resulted in a sharp increase in the number of Russians crossing into Finland, either at the border or via Helsinki airport.

The presence among them of many holidaymakers with European visas using the country as a stopover to travel elsewhere in the European Union had triggered an often-heated debate in the country, prompting the government to adopt initial restrictions. — Euronews

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