Finland says traffic is ‘intensifying’ at the border with Russia

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HELSINKI, Sept 22 (Reuters) – Traffic arriving at Finland’s eastern border with Russia “intensified” overnight and remained elevated into the daytime on Thursday, the Finnish border guard said, although the situation was under control.

Finland, whose 1,300km border with Russia is the longest in the EU, is closely monitoring the situation in its neighbor following President Vladimir Putin’s order for military mobilization for the war in Ukraine, Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen said on Wednesday.

Finnish border crossings have remained among the few points of entry into Europe for Russians after a number of Western countries closed both physical borders and their airspace to Russian aircraft in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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“Traffic at the Finnish-Russian border intensified during the night,” the border guard’s head of international affairs, Matti Pitkaniitty, said in a tweet. He told Reuters that border guards were on standby at nine checkpoints.

Traffic from Russia was busier than usual at the Vaalimaa border crossing – one of nine with Russia – with three lanes of cars each stretching 300-400 meters (yards), a border official there told Reuters.

A Border Patrol spokesman said the traffic situation remained high at noon (0900 GMT), although a separate Border Patrol statement said it had not changed “alarmingly” in recent days compared with pre-pandemic times.

The statement warned that “incorrect and misleading” information was circulating on social media.

Putin’s announcement, made in a televised address early on Wednesday, raised fears that some men of fighting age would not be allowed to leave Russia and caused one-way flights out of the country to sell out quickly. Read more

Finland chose to keep its border with Russia open after Moscow’s February invasion of Ukraine, although it has cut the number of consular appointments available to Russian travelers seeking visas. Read more

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the other EU countries bordering Russian territory, began barring Russian citizens from crossings at midnight Monday, saying they should not travel while their country is at war with Ukraine. Read more

The three Baltic nations will offer no refuge to any Russians fleeing Moscow’s troop mobilization, their ministers said on Wednesday. Read more

Finland is working on its own national solution to limit tourist traffic from Russia, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said during a visit to New York late Wednesday.

“Finland does not want to be a transit country for (EU) Schengen visas issued by other countries. This is the traffic we want to get under control,” Haavisto told reporters.

Pitkaniitty said 4,824 Russians arrived in Finland via the eastern border on Wednesday, up from 3,133 a week earlier.

In northern Norway, there had been no change in the number of Russians crossing into the Nordic country, a police official told Reuters. Norway is not a member of the EU.

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Reporting by Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen, Essi Lehto in Helsinki, Milla Nissi in Gdansk, Gwladys Fouche in Oslo and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; writing by Stine Jacobsen, editing by Terje Solsvik, Kim Coghill and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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