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Finland drastically reduces tourist visas for Russians | National policy

By JARI TANNER – Associated Press

HELSINKI (AP) — Finland on Thursday reduced the number of visas issued to Russian citizens to a tenth of the normal amount in a move seen as a show of solidarity with Ukraine.

Finland, which shares the longest border with Russia of any European Union member country, announced the decision in August amid growing pressure from politicians and ordinary citizens to restrict the movement of Russian tourists across the country. Nordic country as Moscow continues its war in Ukraine.

“It is important that we show that at the same time that Ukrainians are suffering, normal tourism should not continue as usual,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told a meeting of foreign ministers on Wednesday. foreign countries of the European Union in Prague, the Czech capital.

From Thursday, Finland will only allow Russians to apply for a tourist visa once a week and in just four Russian cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Murmansk and Petrozavodsk near the Finnish border.

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Haavisto said he was particularly concerned about a kind of Russian “tourist route” through Helsinki airport, which was used by thousands of Russians ahead of Moscow’s Feb. 24 attack on Ukraine. Russians now pass through Finland before flying to other European countries to circumvent flight bans imposed after the invasion.

In addition to its decision on visas, the Finnish Foreign Ministry said the government is currently considering the possibility of helping Russian human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists critical of the Kremlin. by establishing a new type of humanitarian visa allowing them access to the Nordic country. .

At this week’s meeting in Prague, EU foreign ministers agreed to tighten travel rules for Russians within the 27-member bloc, but found no consensus to ban tourist visas on a large scale, which has been requested by Poland and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Moscow on Thursday described the EU’s decision to scrap a simplified visa regime for Russian tourists as absurd and bad news for Russian citizens. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was considering options to respond to the decision.

“This is another ridiculous decision in an ongoing series of nonsense,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters, as quoted by the media.

Finland shares a 1,340 kilometer (830 mile) border with Russia and the country has consistently ranked as one of the most popular Western travel destinations or stopovers for Russian tourists.

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