Partial mobilization: those countries that are seeing an increase in the arrival of Russians
With around 17,000 arrivals, Finnish border guards said Monday they had recorded the busiest weekend of the year for Russian arrivals, twice as many since Moscow announced “partial mobilization” for the war in Ukraine. “This weekend was the busiest of the year in terms of traffic coming from the eastern border,” Mert Sasioglu, a border agency official, told AFP.
According to statistics released on Monday, 8,572 Russians crossed the land border into Finland on Saturday – for 4,199 exits to Russia, and 8,314 on Sunday – for 5,068 exits.
Fewer passengers than in the pre-Covid era
For Mert Sasioglu, “the level is about twice as high as a week ago” before the mobilization order announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. “The main reason is mobilization,” said the border guard chief, even if the number of border crossings remains lower than before the Covid 19 pandemic. The weekend is traditionally the busiest time at the border crossings, the busiest of which is at Vaalima, halfway between the Finnish capital Helsinki and the Russian metropolis Saint Petersburg.
For its part, Norway, which is not a member of the European Union but is part of the Schengen area, has seen a slight increase in border crossings from Russia at its Storskog border post in the far north. “We (…) see that the number of Russian men arriving on Schengen visas has increased and represents the bulk of the increase over the past week,” regional police officer Sølve Solheim said in a statement.
On Sunday, 243 people entered Norway, including 167 on Schengen visas, and 91 left for Russia, police said. She also points out that these numbers are lower than they were in the pre-Covid era, but expects a possible further increase this week.
Georgia and Turkey are facing an increase in registrations
Other countries such as Georgia or Turkey have faced an increase in Russian arrivals in recent days. Finland announced on Friday that in “the coming days” it would “significantly restrict” Russian access to the Nordic country, which has already become a transit point for the rest of Europe this summer. Russian citizens with a European Schengen tourist visa that is still valid will soon be turned away at the border, even if the visa was issued by a country other than Finland.
Border guards said they were ready to apply the measure “in a day,” with Mert Sasioglu preparing for “difficult developments” in the near future. “With the restrictions, it is possible that illegal crossing attempts will increase,” he said. Four people suspected of trying to cross the border illegally were arrested on Saturday – all have applied for asylum, according to Finnish authorities.
At the beginning of the summer, the lifting of anti-Covid restrictions on both the Russian and Finnish sides had led to a sharp increase in transit by Russians via Finland, at the border or via Helsinki Airport. The presence of many holidaymakers with European visas, using the country as a stopover to travel to other European Union countries, had sparked controversy and prompted the executive to pass the first restrictions.
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