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Russian tourists use "European-looking" registration plates to blend in

A man whose Russian-registered car was vandalised in the past says the fake plates are nice because they don't draw unnecessary attention or raise questions.

Various types of licence plates offered on Telegram. Image: Maiju Hakalahti / Yle

Companies in Russia are selling European-looking vehicle registration plates to drivers who don't want to draw attention as they drive through European countries.

The plates, which are illegal in both Russia and Europe, resemble ones used in the UK, but the numerals are the same as their Russian counterparts.

Those selling the registration plates suggest that their use makes travelling in the EU safer.

Their market is Russians who plan on driving around the EU but are concerned about how people will react if they see the Russian flag on their official plates, due to their country's deadly attack on Ukraine.

"Aleksander," who lives in Helsinki but owns a car registered in Russia, said that his vehicle was vandalised and the plates were stolen last winter. He has since bought a car registered in Finland, but has bought his parents the European-looking plates.

"My parents travel all over Europe. They often visit me in Finland. We decided to protect ourselves and ordered EU-style plates," he said.

He said driving with the bogus plates was nice because they don't draw unnecessary attention or raise questions.

"We have never even been stopped," he said, but added that the plates need to be changed back to the real ones before crossing back into Russia.

Aleksander did not want his actual name to appear in this article for security reasons.

Available on Telegram

There is a brisk market for EU-looking plates on the Russian social media platform Telegram, with prices ranging from 1,500-2,500 rubles, or around 25-41 euros.

The Southeast Finland Border Guard said the agency is aware of the new phenomenon, and that abnormal registration plates started being spotted over the summer. Often however, the Russian drivers switch their plates only after crossing the border into Finland.

The Border Guard said that at least two types of fake registration plates have been spotted, standard European ones, and white-coloured plates that do not carry the "RUS" marking or the white, blue and red-colored Russian flag.

The agency said that some Russian tourists have told Border Guard officials that they received the fake plates from "friends," or bought them as souvenirs.

However, the Southeast Finland Border Guard said that in its opinion the fake plates are not considered legal in any way, even in Russia.

So far, the Border Guard has handed out a single fine for such a registration plate violation.

The agency said that cars that are outfitted with plates that do not comply with the law can potentially be prevented from entering Finland.

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