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Russian tourists disappointed by Finland's visa decision

Russian shoppers in Lappeenranta lamented the news that this may be their last trip to Finland for the foreseeable future.

Tatjana Gravelsin said she respected the decision of the Finnish government, but was still disappointed by the situation. Image: Kare Lehtonen / Yle

Finland's decision to reduce the number of visas granted to Russian tourists did not please Russians currently visiting Finland.

In July, after nearly two years of limited crossings due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, traffic on the Finnish-Russian border picked up after Russia waived them.

"Many of my friends and loved ones really love Finland and Finns, your beautiful country. They love to come here for shopping and vacation," said Viktoria Kurdiumova, who arrived in Lappeenranta from St. Petersburg.

Pushkarova, from St. Petersburg shops in Lappeenranta, but it may be her last trip to Finland for the timebeing. Image: Kare Lehtonen / Yle

Kurdiumova found it very regrettable that Finland is starting to limit visa issuance to Russian tourists.

Maria Pushkarova, who also visited Lappeenranta by way of St. Petersburg for a shopping trip, shared the same opinion.

"It is very sad, because I have been travelling to Finland for a long time and I love Finland very much," commented Pushkarova.

Pushkarova said that she is now travelling alone, but would like to come with her parents. However, they can longer get a visa to visit Finland.

Foreign minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) said on Tuesday that Finland will reduce the processing of Russian tourist visas to one-fifth of its current amount, with the changes coming into force at the beginning of September.

Finland currently accepts around 500 tourist visa applications from Russians every day, and the coming changes will drop that number to about 100.

However, Finland would still grant visas to those who want to come to Finland for work, study or family reasons.

An understanding

Finland justified the reduction in tourist visas by saying that it is not appropriate for Russians to vacation in Finland at the same time the country is responsible for a war in Ukraine.

Pushkarova reminded Yle that not everyone in Russia is in favour of the war.

"The majority of Russians oppose the war. This is sad. I hope it ends quickly," said Pushkarova.

Tatjana Gravelsin also said she respected the decision of the Finnish government.

"I am an average person and I respect my government. But I would like to maintain a friendship. I think public diplomacy is the best course of action," Gravelsin from St. Petersburg explained.

Kurdiumova felt powerless, saying she felt she was a hostage of the situation.

"We can't do anything, and it's hard for us to live in this situation. In one moment, we became outcasts in the whole world. I know that if I do or say something, our life will turn into hell," said Kurdiumova.

Gravelsin shared that the pandemic taught Russians to vacation in their own country. However, she is upset that she will not be able to get a new visa to Finland any time soon.

"I can't say it will be difficult to endure, yes we will survive. But I wouldn't want that," she told Yle.

People living in Finland have also started going across the border for shopping trips. The distance from Lappeenranta to Vyborg is about 50 kilometres.

Gravelsin hoped that Finns would still be allowed to visit Russia.

"We want to see Finns and other nationalities in Vyborg and St. Petersburg. This is probably more a question of politics than common sense," said Gravelsin.