Helsinki, Sep 29 (EFE).- Finland will close its border to Russian tourists from midnight, regardless of whether those looking to cross carry a Schengen visa, the government said Thursday.
Finnish authorities first tabled the measure last week to restrict the number of Russians entering the Nordic nation, many of whom travel on to other European Union countries.
It is the last EU nation on the Russian border to block Russians from entering on tourist visas after Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland adopted the measure two weeks ago.
“The restrictions will be in place until further notice. This resolution aims to completely stop Russian tourism in Finland and the transit of Russian tourists transiting through our country,” Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto told a press conference.
The measure will exempt special circumstances such as those traveling to visit family, to work and study, as well as where humanitarian grounds apply.
Nor will it apply to Russian diplomats, those with Finnish residence permits or political asylum.
With travel links between Russia and the EU halted due to sanctions and in the wake of the decision by the three Baltic nations and Poland to shutter their borders, Finland was the last remaining direct gateway to the EU for many Russians.
Finland’s border agency has said 55,362 Russians have crossed into Finland since Russian president Vladimir Putin announced his “partial” mobilization measure to strengthen his forces in the Ukraine invasion.
The figures represented an 86% uptick compared to the eight days prior to the Russian draft.
Finland’s government has come under domestic and international criticism for keeping its border with Russia open despite the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.
Finland’s border with Russia extends 1,340 km (830 miles) from the Arctic north to the Gulf of Finland in the south.
Helsinki, Finland’s capital, is a roughly 4.5-hour drive from St. Petersburg, Russia. EFE