COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Finland’s border with Russia was closed to Russians with tourist visas 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.
Long queues were reported until midnight at the border crossings. Among the last to enter Finland were two cyclists who arrived a little before 11:00 pm, Finnish broadcaster YLE reported from Vaalimaa, one of the main border crossings between the Nordic country and Russia. Finland has the longest border with Russia of all European Union member countries.
With the exception of the one border crossing between Russia and Norway, Finland had provided the last easily accessible land route to Europe for Russian holders of European Schengen-zone visas.
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 of the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia under the Baltic Sea.
Russian citizens can still enter Finland 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.
Earlier this week, Finnish border guards said they want a fence along the border with Russia, deeming it “necessary due to the changing security environment” in the Nordic country. Such a fence requires the approval of the Finnish Parliament.
The fence would not run the entire 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) length of the border, but should be in “riskier areas, such as border crossings and their nearby areas,” the border guards said.
Norway said Friday it was considering imposing an entry ban for Russians with Schengen visas. The Scandinavian country has a border in the Arctic with Russia which is 198 kilometres (123 miles) long. The sole crossing point is at Storskog.
“We will close the border quickly if necessary, and changes can come at short notice,” Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said.