Up until this week, Russian citizens who have wanted to spend time at their Finnish summer cottages have been required to demonstrate compelling reasons to enter the country, due to coronavirus-related restrictions.
As of Monday, that requirement has been lifted.
Russian holiday home owners had been pressing for easier access to their properties in Finland for some time. With the approach of the summer holiday season, a group of over 40 Russian owners sent a letter to Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) asking for a clarification and easing of entry regulations.
"We collected 42 signatures on the letter in one day. There would certainly have been more, but we did this on a fast schedule," Igor Kostenko, a Russian citizen who owns a cottage in the Saimaa lake district told Yle early in June.
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The letter called for Russian citizens to be treated in the same way as property owners from EU countries, and for family members to be allowed accompany owners.
Vesa Blomqvist, commander of the Southeast Finland Border Guard, said that while the easing of restrictions is important for individual cottage owners, it is unlikely to significantly boost overall cross-border traffic.
"I can't see border crossings increasing enormously because of this," he said.
Blomqvist also speculated that many Russians who held visas for entry into Finland have seen them expire since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and it may take some time to obtain a new visa. Any increase in the number of border crossings, he noted, is likely to be gradual.
He added that only a few people Russian travellers arrived at border crossing points on Monday, the first day of easier entry.
Family members allowed
Blomqvist was unable to give Yle an estimate of how many Russian travellers the Border Guard now expects to see.
"I don't know how many properties are owned by Russians in Finland, how many want to spend the summer here, or whether they have already made holiday plans somewhere else," Blomqvist said.
Those seeking entry under the terms of the new regulations are required to present documentation of ownership of a property in Finland at the border.
"Of course, we also have access to certain registers, from which we can check ownership of the property ourselves," he further pointed out.
Family members of the property owner are also allowed to entry the country. In practice, this means a spouse and children.
Even with the easing of travel rules, coronavirus testing, which in principle is mandatory for anyone entering the country, will continue at the Nuijamaa and Vaalimaa crossing points on the border with Russia.
A test is not required if an individual has an approved certificate for two coronavirus vaccinations or proof of recovery from Covid-19 within the preceding six months.