Finland announces Russian tourist ban in solidarity with Ukraine

A border guard officer controls the vehicles entering Finland at the border checkpoint crossing in Vaalimaa, Finland, on the border with the Russian Federation  (AFP via Getty Images)
A border guard officer controls the vehicles entering Finland at the border checkpoint crossing in Vaalimaa, Finland, on the border with the Russian Federation (AFP via Getty Images)

Finland will ban Russian tourists from entering its territory from midnight, just weeks after four other European countries took similar steps.

Helsinki has said it had made the decision because the arrival of large numbers of Russians at its border was damaging its relationships with other countries.

"The decision in principle aims to completely prevent Russian tourism to Finland and the related transit through Finland," foreign minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters on Thursday.

The development comes after almost 200,000 Russian left their country in the week after president Vladimir Putin ordered a “partial” mobilisation, the country’s first since the Second World War.

Many of the young men fleeing the military draft headed to Finland, as Russia’s four other European neighbours - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland - closed their borders to Russian tourists in mid-September.

Others headed to Kazakhstan, with officials saying that nearly 100,000 Russian citizens had entered its territory in the last week. Authorities in the Central Asian country have said they are struggling to accommodate the new arrivals.

Finland’s move to end Russian tourism may be its most dramatic show of solidarity with Ukraine over the Kremlin’s invasion, but it is not its first.

On 1 September, Finland reduced the number of visas it was issuing to Russian citizens to one-tenth of the average number.

After announcing a full ban on Russian tourists, Helsinki confirmed that people will still be allowed to enter for work, study and family visits.

Finland has been considering a tourist ban for some time, with its foreign secretary saying that it had to get numbers “under control”.

“Finland does not want to be a transit country for Schengen visas issued by other countries. This is the traffic we want to get under control,” Mr Haavisto said earlier this month.

“The fear is that we will be the only border country through which it is possible to come from Russia to Europe with Schengen visas issued by other countries.”