Finland bans entry to Russian tourists starting at midnight
Foreign Minister of Finland Pekka Haavisto speaks during Finnish Government's press conference in Helsinki, Finland, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. The Finnish government said Thursday it would significantly limit passenger traffic on Finland’s border with Russia, banning Russian citizens traveling with tourist visas from entering the Nordic country effective Friday. (Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva via AP)

HELSINKI, Finland (AP) — Finland announced it would ban Russian citizens with tourist visas from entering the country starting Friday, curtailing one of the last easily accessible routes to Europe for Russians trying to flee a military mobilisation aimed at bolstering the Kremlin's war in Ukraine.

With the exception of Norway, which has only one border crossing with Russia, Finland has provided the last easily accessible land route to Europe for Russian holders of European Schengen-zone visas.

"The decision in principle aims to completely prevent Russian tourism to Finland and the related transit through Finland," Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said during a news conference Thursday.

The government justified its decision by saying that continued arrivals of Russian tourists in Finland is endangering the country's international relations and cited security concerns related to Russia's war in Ukraine, the "illegal" referendums arranged by Russia in parts of Ukraine and recent sabotage in the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia under the Baltic Sea.

Russian citizens can still enter Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) land border with Russia, for family reasons, study or work. Also, Russian political dissidents may seek to enter for humanitarian purposes.

As of September 1, Finland slashed the number of visas — including for tourism purposes — issued to Russian citizens to one-tenth of the typical number, in a show of solidarity with Ukraine.

Haavisto had earlier said he was particularly worried about Russian tourists flying through Helsinki airport to other European nations to circumvent flight bans imposed after Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

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