Finland says traffic ‘has intensified’ at Russian border

By: News Team

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Traffic reaching Finland’s eastern border with Russia “intensified” overnight after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial military mobilization and remained high on Thursday, but it was under control, the Finnish Border Guard said.

At the Vaalimaa border crossing, about a three-hour drive from Russia’s second-largest city, Saint Petersburg, three lanes of cars stretched 300-400 meters around 1:15 p.m. local time (1015 GMT). ), a border official told Reuters.

The crossing is one of nine along Finland’s 1,300-kilometre border with Russia, the longest in the European Union.

Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen said on Wednesday that Finland is closely monitoring the situation in its neighbor following Putin’s order on Wednesday for a mobilization for the war in Ukraine.

Putin’s announcement, made in a television address early Wednesday morning, raised fears that some men of fighting age might not be able to leave Russia and caused flights out of the country to sell out quickly.

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

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

Although traffic from Russia was heavier than normal, border guards said in a statement that it had not changed “alarmingly” in recent days compared to pre-pandemic times.

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

By 3:40 p.m. local time (1240 GMT), traffic had calmed down a bit, according to a Reuters witness, with cars stretching across three lanes of about 150 meters each.

Finland opted to keep its border with Russia open following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, although it has reduced the number of consular appointments available for Russian travelers seeking a visa.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the other EU countries that border Russian territory, began turning away Russian citizens at border crossings at midnight on Monday, saying they should not travel while their country is at war with Ukraine. .

The three Baltic states will not offer refuge to Russians fleeing Moscow’s troop mobilization, their ministers said on Wednesday.

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 on 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.

“The fear is that we are the only border country through which you can come from Russia to Europe with Schengen visas issued by other countries.”

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

In Norway’s far north there was no change in the number of Russians crossing, a police officer told Reuters. Norway is not a member of the European Union, but is part of the Schengen area.

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