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Sanctions impact Russian students in Finland

LUT University says it's not planning tuition deferrals for its Russian students.

The Lapeenranta campus of LUT University. Image: Kalle Purhonen / Yle

Measures designed to hurt Russia's economy are also impacting young Russians studying in Finland. Banking sanctions mean some Russian students have been cut off from their parents' financial aid.

Sanctions have excluded Russia from global payments infrastructure, but Russia has also imposed bans on foreign currency cash exports from the country.

Around 160 Russian students are studying at LUT University, which has campuses around Finland.

Arseni Baibakov, a student at LUT, said Russia's money transfer rules have prevented him from paying the rent for his student apartment.

"Russia's new rules mean you can't transfer money from Russia to foreign companies' accounts," Baibakov explained, saying his neighbour is now making transfers for him.

"I picked up as much cash from the ATM as I could when it was still possible."

Baibakov said he has had trouble opening a Finnish bank account. "I've already waited a month for them to make a decision."

While Baibakov's parents are helping to fund his studies, he said others are not as lucky and are scrambling to find employment. "Some of them are rushing to find jobs to support themselves."

LUT's rector, Juha-Matti Saksa, said the school was not aware of Russian students' financial struggles.

The university is not planning on offering any special financial aid for Russian students.

"We will be charging the normal term fees from students from outside the EU and EEA. We're not making any exceptions at the moment."

Saksa pointed out that foreign students are covered by benefits agency Kela.

"If problems arise, students can turn to Kela's basic social assistance," Saksa said.

Brain drain

Since Russia's invasion many Russian citizens pursuing university degrees in Finland say they don't plan on working in Russia.

"All the Russian students I know say they no longer want to return to Russia," Baibakov told Yle.

Prior to Russia's attack on Ukraine, Russian students often set their sights on jobs with foreign companies operating in Russia. Today that's no longer an option, according to Baibakov.

"There are jobs open because many professionals have already left the country, but salaries there are very low."

Some 70,000 IT workers have left Russia between February and March, according to RAEK, an organisation representing the Russia's IT sector. The group said it expects another 100,000 to emigrate next month.