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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Finland bars Russians from entering as tourists

By Johanna Lemola

Finland announced on Thursday that it would bar Russians from entering as tourists, closing off the last land route into the European Union for people fleeing the Kremlin’s military mobilization effort.

The policy takes effect at midnight on Friday, Finland’s government announced.

The decision leaves open some avenues for Russian nationals to enter Finland — including for work, studies and what an official described as “humanitarian reasons” — but is expected to sharply reduce the number of Russians arriving.

Finland was the last European Union nation to allow Russians to enter as tourists, after Poland and the Baltic States, which also share a land border with Russia, enacted their own bans last week. As a member of the Schengen area, which allows free travel within 26 countries in Europe, Finland has been a key entry point for Russians into the EU; last week, two-thirds of the 66,000 Russians entering the EU via land borders came through Finland, according to Frontex, the EU border agency.

Approximately 80% of Russians entering Finland on tourist visas go on to other countries.

Finland’s government had long discussed barring Russian tourists, but President Vladimir Putin’s call-up this month of hundreds of thousands of civilians for military service “had a significant effect” on the decision, Finland’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, told a news conference. Russia’s mobilization prompted an exodus of Russian men escaping possible deployment to the war in Ukraine.

Living in the shadow of Russia, a large and powerful neighbor, has shaped Finland’s foreign policy, and Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted fast changes. In June, NATO leaders formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance, as both Nordic nations abandoned decades of neutrality and military nonalignment in order to buttress their security.

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