It’s not a full shutdown yet. But the number of Russians authorized to enter Finland should fall by at least half, according to the government in Helsinki, which announced on Thursday 29 September that Russian tourists with a Schengen visa would be turned back to the border, the next morning, in the early hours.
To justify this decision, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto, declared that “the entry of Russian citizens into Finland, to do tourism there, endangers the international relations” of his country. Since Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania closed their borders on September 19, citing “a threat to their security”, Finland was the only direct access point to the European Union (EU) for Russian nationals with a Schengen visa.
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Following the “partial” mobilization announced by the Kremlin on September 21, crossings have increased. While the previous week, just over 28,000 Russians had crossed the border, 50,800 entered Finland between September 21 and 28, an increase of 80%. The level, however, remains below the pre-Covid period.
The trend could also be about to reverse: only 4,707 arrivals were recorded on Wednesday September 28, against 7,000 to 8,000 a few days earlier. According to the public channel Yle, this drop is due to the installation of Russian army recruitment offices, just before the border posts. On Thursday, arrivals fell further: “We don’t really know what’s going on on the other side, but at times it’s extremely calm. No more cars are coming,” says Matti Pitkäniitty, director of international affairs at the Finnish border guards.
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The profiles of the candidates for exile are varied, he explains: “We see families, people who are used to making the trip, and young men of age to go to war. Their only common point: “Because they had a visa and a base somewhere in Europe, they took the opportunity they had to leave, waiting to see what was going to happen in Russia after the mobilization announcement. »
Very few have applied for asylum – only between 30 and 40 per day, including around ten at the border. According to Mr Pitkäniitty, about half travel with a visa issued by Finland and only 20% stay there. Every day, between 3,000 and 4,000 people make the trip in the opposite direction. If these figures are so high, compared to entries, it is because in the absence of direct flights from European countries, Finland remains one of the last exit doors from Europe to Russia.
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