Finland to close border to Russian tourists starting Friday

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Finland said Thursday it will bar Russians with Schengen tourist visas from entering the country at midnight (2100 GMT) following a surge in arrivals after Moscow’s mobilization order.

“The decision aims to completely prevent the current situation of Russian tourism to Finland and the related transit through Finland,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told a press conference.

Haavisto cited damage to “Finland’s international relations” as a justification for the decision and said that Russia’s mobilization had a “significant impact” on their assessment.

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The “illegal referendums in Ukraine” and the alleged sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea “have added to concerns,” Haavisto said.

Restrictions include exceptions on human rights grounds, and Russians can still enter Finland to meet family, work, or study.
“The decision must also not prevent travel for humanitarian reasons,” Haavisto added.

Interior Minister Krista Mikkonen said it is possible that the restrictions will result in increased numbers of asylum applications and illegal border crossings.

Mikkonen said that someone being called up for mobilization itself is not grounds for asylum - unless it can be shown, for example, that the individual might be forced to commit war crimes or is subject to disproportionate punishment.

“But those decisions are always taken individually by the authorities,” she said.

Even before Russia’s mobilization order Finland had restricted the number of visas issued to Russians, as tourism from its eastern neighbor had caused discontent due to the war in Ukraine.

But Haavisto noted that the restrictions in place were not “sufficient” in the current situation.

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