Finland is suspending the issuing of Schengen Area tourist visas to Russian citizens from tomorrow, Friday, public broadcaster Yle reports, after Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) announced that the country would be bringing forward the implementation of a decision already made, in the wake of events this week.
Haavisto said: "On [Thursday], the Finnish government issued a resolution to significantly restrict the entry of Russian tourists into Finland. The entry restrictions will enter into force on September 30 2022, at midnight, and they will remain in force until further notice," Yle's English-language portal reports.
"The aim of the resolution is to halt Russian tourism into Finland and transit through Finland into other Schengen countries. In the resolution the government notes that the entry of Russian citizens for tourism purposes into Finland endangers Finland's international relations," Haavisto continued, noting that visas on humanitarian grounds will still be granted, though this will take "several months" to codify.
The move will invalidate hundreds of thousands of currently-valid, previously-issued tourist visas which Russian citizens have already received, Yle adds, though, as in Estonia, visas issued by other Schengen-area countries will still be validated – though not visas issued by non-Schengen states.
The development follows the rupture in the Nord Stream LNG pipeline this week, thought to have been caused by an explosion, as well "elections" held in Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine, widely viewed in the West as a sham.
Other considerations include security risks presented by ordinary tourists, and the country's border guard will enforce the new rules, though, Interior Minister Krista Mikkonen (Green) conceded, scope for applying for asylum or illegally crossing Finland's lengthy border with the Russian Federation still exists – though resources will be boosted to mitigate these eventualities, she said.
Being called-up in the recently-announced mass mobilization of reservists in Russia was not on its own grounds for granting asylum, which is done on a case-by-case basis, Mikkonen added.
The number of border crossings from Russia into Finland had already fallen ahead of Thursday's announcement, falling by about a third to 4,300 on Wednesday, while a conscription checkpoint intentionally placed near the border, on the Russian side, may have also deterred people attempting to leave, Yle says.
Exemptions as things stand include visiting family members, visits for health treatment, and work-related crossings.
The original Yle English piece is here.
Finland announced last Friday that it would be significantly restricting the right of Russian citizens to enter the country, a move which Estonia had made earlier this month, while the decision was also influenced by concerns over Finland's international reputation for as long as the previous border restrictions remained in place.
Traditionally neutral, Finland, along with Sweden, gradually became more aligned with NATO in recent years even ahead of the February 24 invasion, and both countries applied for full membership in May.
Finland lost a vast swathe of territory to the-then Soviet Union as a result of World War Two, territory which was inherited by the Soviet Union's successor state, the Russian Federation, and the current Russo-Finnish border lies considerably to the west of the pre-war line, particularly on the southeastern frontier.
Editor: Andrew Whyte