The Finnish government announced it is closing its borders to Russians with European tourist visas effective at midnight Thursday night, after thousands of people streamed over their shared border with Russia in recent days.
At a news conference in Helsinki Thursday, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters the government is taking the action because the current situation “endangers Finland’s international relations.” He said Finland had discussed the plan with Ukraine and other nations before making a decision.
Since last week’s announcement Russian President Vladimir Putin was seeking to “mobilize” 300,000 reservists for his war in Ukraine, nations sharing borders with Russia have seen thousands of Russian citizens entering their countries. Reuters news service reports Finland saw an 80 percent increase in border crossings.
Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer land border with Russia, and Haavisto said the mobilization announcement “had a significant impact” on the decision. He said Russia’s “illegal” annexation referendums in eastern Ukraine and the alleged sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea were also considerations.
But Haavisto says the measure was under discussion in Finland even before Putin’s order due to the significant visits of Russian tourists during the summer, which caused controversy in Finland.
He said exceptions will be made for family visits, health, work or studies and humanitarian reasons.
The foreign minister said Finland will continue to work with the European Union on solutions to the border issues, adding it is important to strive for a more “unified line with Russia’s Schengen and EU border neighbors.”
Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.