Finland considers banning Russians as cross-border traffic grows

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VALIMA, Finland (Reuters) – Finland said on Thursday it was considering barring most Russians from entering the country as cross-border traffic from its eastern neighbor “intensified” after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial military mobilization.

Finnish land border crossings remained among the few entry points into Europe for the Russians after a series of Western countries closed both their physical borders and their airspace to Russian aircraft in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said the government was assessing the risks posed by individuals traveling through Finland, and was studying ways to sharply reduce transit to Russia.

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“The will of the government is very clear, we believe that Russian tourism (to Finland) as well as transit through Finland should be stopped,” Marin told reporters.

“I think the situation needs to be reassessed after yesterday’s news,” she added, referring to Putin’s partial mobilization order.

The Russian president’s announcement raised concerns that some men of fighting age would not be allowed to leave Russia and prompted one-way trips out of the country to sell out quickly. Read more

Finland chose to keep its border with Russia open after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 although it reduced the number of consular appointments available to Russian travelers seeking visas. Read more

the border

At the Valima border crossing, about a three-hour drive from St Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, three lanes of cars each stretched 300-400 meters (yards) around 1:15 p.m. local time (1015 GMT), according to to a border official. to Reuters.

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The crossing is one of nine on Finland’s 1,300 km (800 mi) border with Russia, the longest in the European Union.

“Traffic at the Finnish-Russian border intensified during the night,” Matti Petkaniti, head of international affairs at the border guards, said in a tweet on Twitter. He told Reuters that border guards are ready at the nine checkpoints.

Although traffic from Russia was busier than usual, border guards said in a statement that it had not changed “disturbingly” in recent days compared to pre-pandemic times.

The statement warned against circulating “incorrect and misleading” information on social media.

At about 1730 local time (1530 GMT), traffic continued to flow, according to a Reuters witness, with cars stretching over four lanes, each for about 150 metres.

A 34-year-old Russian man named Nikita, who did not give his last name, told Reuters he was going on vacation to southern Europe and was not sure if he would return to Russia.

“I’ll make the decision when I’m there,” he said when crossing the border.

Border officials told Reuters that a large number of arriving Russians were traveling on tourist visas. Tourists must provide visas and documents that prove their itineraries such as plane tickets, hotel reservations or an invitation from a friend.

As long as the tourists can credibly show return plans, such as return tickets, border guards will not be able to verify whether they are actually planning to return, Elias Lin, deputy head of the Valima border station, told Reuters.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, other European Union countries bordering Russian territory, began turning away Russian citizens from transit at midnight on Monday, saying they should not travel while their country is at war with Ukraine. Read more

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Ministers of the three Baltic states said on Wednesday that the three Baltic states would not offer any sanctuary to any Russians fleeing Moscow’s buildup of forces. Read more

Petkaniti said 4,824 Russians reached Finland via the eastern border on Wednesday, up from 3,133 the previous week.

A police official told Reuters that in far northern Norway there was no change in the number of Russians crossing. Norway is not a member of the European Union.

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Additional reporting by Stein Jacobsen in Copenhagen, Issey Leto in Helsinki, Mila Nessi in Gdansk, Goladis Fuchs in Oslo and Andrios Setas in Vilnius; Writing by Stein Jacobsen and Goladis Fuchs, Editing by Terry Solsvik, Kim Coogle, Mark Heinrich, Catherine Evans, William MacLean

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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