Traffic intensifying on Russian border, Finland says amid mobilization order

WATCH: Russian men rushed for the exits on Thursday after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization, with traffic at border crossings with Finland and Georgia surging and prices for air tickets from Moscow rocketing.

Traffic arriving at Finland’s eastern border with Russia “intensified” overnight and remained elevated into daytime hours on Thursday, the Finnish Border Guard said, although the situation was under control.

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

Finnish land border crossings have remained among the few entry points into Europe for Russians after a string of Western countries shut both physical frontiers and their air space to Russian planes in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“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 thatborder guards were ready at nine checkpoints.

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Traffic from Russia was busier than normal at the Vaalimaa border crossing – one of nine with Russia – with three lanes of cars each stretching for 300-400 metres, a border official there told Reuters.

A border guard spokesperson said the traffic situation remained elevated at midday (0900 GMT), although a separate border guard 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 an early-morning television address on Wednesday, raised fears that some men of fighting age would not be allowed to leave Russia and prompted one-way flights out of the country to sell out fast.

Finland opted to keep its frontier with Russia open following Moscow’s February invasion of Ukraine although it has cut back the number of consular appointments available to Russian travelers seeking visas.

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

The three Baltic nations will offer no refuge to any Russians fleeing Moscow’s mobilization of troops, 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.

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“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 journalists.

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

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

© 2022 Reuters

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