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    Finland closes the border to Russian tourists | International | The USA Print

    A Finnish border guard was inspecting vehicles at the Vaalimaa border post in southern Finland on Thursday.
    A Finnish border guard was inspecting vehicles at the Vaalimaa border post in southern Finland on Thursday.ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO (AFP)

    The Government of Finland has approved this Thursday the “complete closure” of its border to Russian tourists from midnight. The measure, in line with those adopted two weeks ago by the rest of the EU states that border Russia (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland), leaves the citizens of the Eurasian country without the possibility of accessing the European Union with a visa of tourist. Helsinki justifies the decision in the “growing security risks” derived from the increase in border crossings after the military mobilization announced last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    “The entry of Russian citizens with tourist visas endangers Finland’s international relations,” Pekka Haavisto, the Finnish Foreign Minister, said at a press conference, adding that the decision was taken after several conversations with the Ukrainian government. Haavisto has detailed the exceptions for which Russian citizens will still be able to enter Finland, such as family visits and trips for work or study.

    More than 50,000 Russians crossed through the 13 border posts between their country and Finland in the seven days following the mobilization ordered by Putin, an increase of 86% compared to the previous week. “The spike in recent days has had a significant impact on our decision,” Haavisto said. Even so, the number of Russian citizens who have arrived in Finnish territory this month remains markedly lower than those registered before the coronavirus pandemic.

    With the closure of the Finnish border, there are no longer any border posts in the European Union through which Russian tourists can cross, even if they have a visa issued by a Schengen country (made up of 22 EU members, Norway, Switzerland , Iceland and Liechtenstein). Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia already adopted the measure announced this Thursday by Helsinki on the 19th. Most of the Russian citizens who arrived in Finland in recent weeks did not remain in the Nordic country, but continued their journey through other EU countries. Russian airlines have also been unable to fly to EU territory since the end of February, a few days after the start of the invasion of Ukraine.

    Sanna Marin, the Finnish Prime Minister, already advanced last week the border closure that has been approved this Thursday. “The position of our government is clear: we must put an end to tourism and the transit of Russian citizens through our territory,” declared the Social Democrat president. The Estonian Executive had expressed a few days earlier its “frustration” at Finland’s refusal to join the closure decreed by the rest of the EU countries that border Russia. The EU foreign ministers decided at the end of August to suspend a 2007 agreement that facilitated the issuance of visas to Russian citizens, and agreed to greater scrutiny to grant tourism permits, but not a veto like the one they have finally decreed Poland, Finland and the three Baltic republics.

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    The Finnish Border Guard urged in a report on Tuesday to build a fence on 10% to 20% of the 1,340 kilometers separating the Nordic country and Russia. Krista Mikkonen, the Minister of the Interior, was in favor of erecting a fence in the “most sensitive areas” of one of the longest borders in Europe. In July, the Eduskunta (Finnish Parliament) passed a law allowing the future construction of fences on its borders and the temporary suspension of the possibility of requesting asylum at its border posts.

    Tourists with Russian nationality can still access Schengen territory through the Storskog border crossing, in northern Norway, the only operation in the almost 200 kilometers that separate the two countries, in one of the most depopulated areas in all of Europe. The Norwegian police have reported a “slight increase” in the arrival of Russians with tourist visas, although the figures are insignificant: just under 250 Russian citizens entered the Scandinavian country last Sunday.

    The cancellation of visas for Russian tourists, and the possibility of requesting asylum in community territory to avoid joining the Kremlin troops deployed in Ukraine, have opened new fronts in the EU. The closure of borders to Russian citizens has been criticized, among others, by Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, who assured that it is a measure “against the entire population [rusa]including the innocent. Poland and the three Baltic republics have announced that escaping military mobilization will not be enough for a Russian to seek refuge on their territory; Finland has preferred to avoid pronouncing itself on this issue, and Germany has assured that it is prepared to receive defectors. “Anyone who bravely opposes the Putin regime and is therefore in great danger can apply for asylum from political persecution,” said Nancy Faeser, the German interior minister.

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