Finland state

Finland limits visas to Russians amid rush to Europe

HELSINKI, Aug 16 (Reuters) – Finland will reduce the number of visas issued to Russians from September 1, Finland’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, amid a scramble for Europe.

Finland’s land border crossings remained among the few entry points into Europe for Russians after a series of Western countries closed their airspace to Russian aircraft in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The Finnish government agreed on Tuesday to reduce their numbers, after Russian tourists began using Finland’s Helsinki-Vantaa airport as a gateway to European holiday destinations after Russia lifted related border restrictions to the pandemic a month ago.

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“And that may not be very appropriate if we think, for example, of the airspace restrictions put in place for Russia,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters after the government talks.

Finland would reduce daily visa application appointments in Russia from 1,000 to 500 per day, with only 100 reserved for tourists, the ministry said.

The number of visas granted was already far below what it was before the pandemic and the war. In July, Finland granted only 16,000 visas to Russians, compared to 92,100 in the same month in 2019, according to Foreign Ministry statistics.

Finland and the Baltic states would also propose that the European Union end a visa facilitation agreement with Russia that makes it easier for Russians to travel to and within the European Union, Haavisto said.

Some EU leaders, such as Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and her Estonian counterpart Kaja Kallas, have called for an EU-wide visa ban, which German Chancellor Olaf Scholz challenged on Monday, saying that Russians should be able to flee their country of origin if they do not agree. with the government. Read more

Finland was considering creating a national humanitarian visa that could be granted to Russians who needed to flee or visit Europe for purposes such as journalism or advocacy, Haavisto added.

According to EU rules, a tourist must apply for a visa from the country he intends to visit, but can enter the Schengen area without border control from any point and travel around it up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Oleg Morozov, a Russian MP, said in an article published by the RIA Novosti news agency that Moscow should stop allowing Finns to travel to the country except for things such as medical treatment or to attend funeral, saying Russia could manage without “growth”. cross-border journeys of Finns to buy petrol”.

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Reporting by Essi Lehto, editing by Stine Jacobsen, Bernadette Baum and Alex Richardson

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