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Traffic over Finnish-Russian border drops by one third

Officials have stopped requiring drivers to book times in advance for crossings into Finland at Vaalimaa, as queues have disappeared.

Vaalimaan rajanylityspaikka
Image: Mika Moksu / Yle

The number of people crossing the Finnish-Russian border dropped sharply last month.

The Finnish Border Guard says that the number of crossing sank in December by a third compared with a year earlier. It says the main reason is the plunge in the value of the rouble, which has made it expensive for Russians to visit Finland.

In all of last year, there were some 11.4 million border crossings, a decline of more than 12 percent from 2013.

More than three quarters of this traffic is through the four border points in south-east Finland: Vaalimaa, Vainikkala, Nuijamaa and Imatra. Nearly nine million people came through these posts, 72 percent of them Russians. Vaalimaa was the busiest crossing point.

Kuusamo bucks trend – up 29%

Officials have recently stopped requiring drivers of private cars to book a time in advance for crossings at Vaalimaa.

“We no longer see this kind of queuing system as sensible, since there are no longer backlogs at the border,” says Jyrki Järvinen of the South-east Finland Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.

Last year traffic through Nuijamaa slumped by one fifth. Conversely the northern point in Kuusamo – just below the edge of Finnish Lapland – saw a 29 percent increase in volume.

The Border Guard attributes the decline to Russia’s slower economic growth, the slump in the price of oil and the value of the rouble as well as the Ukraine situation. Traditional shopping visits to south-eastern Finland have been undermined by Russian consumers’ weaker purchasing power.

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