Finland set to close border to Russians fleeing Putin mobilization as queues grow | World | New

Finland is ready to ban most Russians from entering the country as trafficking “heightened” after President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilization. Finland’s land border crossings are one of the few entry points into Europe for Russians after a series of Western countries closed physical borders and airspace to Russian aircraft in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Thursday the government was assessing the risks posed by people traveling through Finland and considering ways to drastically reduce Russian transit.

She told reporters: “The will of the government is very clear, we believe that Russian tourism in Finland must be stopped, as well as transit through Finland.”

Referring to Putin’s speech yesterday, in which he also hinted at the possible use of nuclear weapons: “I think the situation needs to be reassessed after yesterday’s news.”

Putin’s announcement raised concerns that some men of fighting age would not be allowed to leave Russia and as a result one-way flights from the country quickly sold out.

Finland has opted to keep its border with Russia open despite the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, although it has reduced the number of consular appointments available for Russian travelers seeking visas.

At the Vaalimaa border crossing, about a three-hour drive from Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, three lanes of cars each stretched 300 to 400 meters around 1:15 p.m. (1015 GMT), an official said. borders.

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Mr Pitkaniitty said 4,824 Russians arrived in Finland via the eastern border yesterday, up from 3,133 a week earlier.

Although traffic from Russia has been busier than normal, border guards said in a statement that it has not changed “alarmingly” in recent days compared to the pre-pandemic period.

The statement warns of “incorrect and misleading” information that it says is circulating on social media.

At around 5:30 p.m. local time (1530 GMT), traffic continued to flow smoothly, according to an eyewitness, with cars stretching in four lanes, each some 150 meters.

A 34-year-old Russian man named Nikita, who declined to give his surname, said he was going on holiday to southern Europe and was unsure if he would return to Russia, explaining: “I I’ll make the decision when I’m there.

Border officials said a large number of arriving Russians were traveling on tourist visas. Tourists must present visas and documents proving their onward itineraries such as air tickets, hotel reservations or an invitation from a friend.

Provided tourists can credibly show return plans, such as return tickets, border guards cannot verify whether they actually plan to return, explained Elias Laine, deputy head of the Vaalimaa border post. .

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the other EU countries that border Russian territory, began refusing Russian citizens at crossings at midnight on Monday, saying they should not travel so long that their country is at war with Ukraine.

The three Baltic nations will offer no refuge to Russians fleeing mobilization of troops from Moscow, their ministers said yesterday.

In far northern Norway, the number of Russians crossing has not changed, a police official said.

Norway is not a member of the EU.

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