Parking at Helsinki’s airport has dozens of cars with Russian licence plates as tourists are using Finland as a transit country between Russia and the European Union.
Since Russia’s COVID-19 restrictions on travel eased in July, there has been an increase in the number of Russian tourists attempting to enter the EU.
The bloc has shut its airspace to Russian planes, so, as a workaround, tourists are entering Finland by car and travelling internally within the Schengen zone.
“Finland is the first Schengen country for many,” said Pekka Hvisto, Finland’s foreign affairs minister.
“They come here on Schengen visas issued by various different countries and then continue further via Helsinki airport… There is now a clear boom in both this tourism and in applications for new visas.”
In response, the country has announced that it will restrict the number of visas for Russian tourists to 10% of its current number by September 1.
However, according to the Finnish border guard, around two-thirds of Russians travelling through the country have visas issued by another Schengen-zone nation.
The EU Baltic states and Poland support Finland’s position.
“I think it is morally wrong for Russian tourists to go to Russia as if nothing happened,” said Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign affairs minister.
“The Russian government commits genocidal crimes – and the Lithuanian parliament has recognised that.”
Lithuania is now considering banning visas for Russian tourists in all countries that have land borders with Russia and Belarus.
However, convincing all EU countries to follow suit will be an uphill battle.
And according to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the EU shouldn’t make it harder for Kremlin opponents to flee the country.
“What is important for us is that we understand there are a lot of people fleeing from Russia because they disagree with the Russian regime,” he said earlier this month.
“All the decisions we take should not make it more complicated to leave the country, for getting away from the leadership and the dictatorship in Russia.”