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Finland to significantly restrict right of entry, tourist visas for Russians

The number of Russian citizens attempting to enter Finland has doubled in the space of one week.

Queues of cars at the Vaalimaa border crossing post on Finland's eastern border. Image: Sasu Mäkinen / Lehtikuva

Finland is set to introduce new measures aimed at significantly restricting the right for Russians to enter the country as well as further curtailing the issuing of tourist visas to Russian citizens.

Yle understands the decision has been made due to the damage to Finland's international reputation caused by keeping the border open, albeit with certain restrictions.

Speaking from New York, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Green) said that a draft of the decision in principle already exists and is currently undergoing technical and legal preparation. This process will take a few days, he noted.

Haavisto added that the new policy will be very strict, and will see Russian citizens prevented from entering Finland on a tourist visa alone. This restriction will apply to all visas issued by Finland and other Schengen area countries, Yle understands.

Earlier this week, the three Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania — and Poland began preventing Russian tourists from crossing their borders due to Russia's war in Ukraine. Finnish authorities did not however make a similar decision, leaving Finland's eastern border as the only EU land border still accessible to Russian tourists.

The issue of Russians entering Finland was discussed on Friday during a meeting of the Foreign and Security Policy Committees of both the President's Office and the government.

Following the meeting, Finland's government is expected to adopt a decision in principle in the near future.

This week's episode of All Points North asks why Finland was keeping its eastern border opening to Russian tourists. You can listen to the full podcast using the embedded player here, via Yle Areena, on Spotify or via the options found in this article.

Story continues after audio.

According to Yle sources, the new entry restrictions will not apply to family visits.

Haavisto said on Wednesday that Finland was urgently seeking a solution to restrict the issuing of tourist visas to Russian citizens, especially in light of the partial mobilisation of Russian reservists announced by the Kremlin earlier that day.

Finland has also appealed to the European Commission to issue an EU-wide recommendation that would restrict the entry of Russian citizens into EU countries under tourism visas.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said on Thursday that Finland must put an end to Russian travel and tourism, but noted that "how to do this is a more complicated question."

The Finnish Border Guard reported earlier on Friday that the number of Russians entering Finland has doubled in a week. The queue of cars attempting to enter Finland from Russia at the Vaalimaa border crossing point was about half a kilometre long on Friday afternoon.

Edit note: Updated at 7:20pm on 23.9.2022 with comments by foreign minister Pekka Haavisto.

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