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29 Sep, 2022 15:40

Finland explains border closure for Russian tourists

Helsinki says the increased number of Russians arriving amid the partial mobilization “endangers” Finland
Finland explains border closure for Russian tourists

Russian citizens with Schengen tourist visas will be denied entry to Finland starting from Thursday night at midnight, the government has announced.

The authorities have decided to “significantly restrict the entry of Russian tourists into Finland,” the statement said, adding that Schengen rules allow nations to take such decisions when “international relations and security are taken into account.”

According to Helsinki, “the rapidly increasing volume of tourists arriving in Finland” since the announcement of a partial mobilization by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, “endanger Finland’s international position and international relations.” 

“The resolution aims to stop tourism and related transit from Russia altogether,” the statement said, adding that the number of visa applications Finnish consular staff can process in Russia will be “drastically” limited.

Only those deemed eligible for humanitarian visas will be allowed to enter Finland after the restrictions come into force. The Nordic nation will also allow Russians to enter if such a move would serve its “national interests” or would be linked to Finland’s international obligations, it said.

Finland has emerged as one of the staunchest opponents of allowing Russian tourists into the Schengen zone. In September, Helsinki asked Brussels to allow EU nations denying entry to Russians to revoke their visas, preventing people from entering the bloc through another member state’s territory.

It also suggested including tourist visa restrictions on a list of anti-Russia sanctions at a September meeting of EU foreign ministers. Finland, which shares a long land border with Russia, already has a mechanism in place that allows it to deny visas to Russians and refuse entry to those who already have them.

The EU suspended a visa facilitation agreement with Russia in September. Some member states have also stopped issuing tourist and business visas. The three Baltic states and Poland earlier announced they would deny entry to Russian citizens with valid Schengen visas issued by other nations.

Finland has stressed that it does not consider Russian tourists a “security threat,” but Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto argued that “a moral and ethical principle [is] involved,” pointing to the military conflict in Ukraine.

Visa restrictions for Russians have previously drawn some criticism from the UN, with Secretary General Antonio Guterres saying it “may not be a good idea.”