“Parents are crying and afraid that they won’t see us again” Finland is closing the border with Russia. How does this tear families apart?

Authorities Finland prepared to close all remaining checkpoints on the land border with Russia. IN Helsinki stated that the reason for this decision was the uncontrolled flow of refugees from Somalia, Syria And Iraqwhich Moscow “uses it to destabilize the situation in the country.” If the authorities make this decision, all checkpoints will stop working on the night of November 22. found out what is happening at the border and how Russians can now get to the neighboring Northern European country.

The scandal erupted due to the influx of migrants seeking asylum

On the morning of November 20, Finnish media reported that the country’s authorities were ready to consider the possibility of completely closing the border with Russia. “It may be closed on the night of November 22,” explained Iltalehti newspaper. At the same time, the publication noted that this requires a decision of the Council of Ministers, but no government meetings on this matter were reported.

A diplomatic row between Moscow and Helsinki erupted after Finnish authorities accused the Kremlin of provoking the migration crisis. According to the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Northern European country, Marie Rantanen, asylum seekers from Middle Eastern and African countries have begun to use the popular crossings between Russia and Finland too actively. They crossed the border on scooters and bicycles, without having “the proper documents.”

The country’s President Sauli Niinistö even called the influx of migrants “revenge on the part of Russia” – because Finland entered into NATO.

Now I understand that this won’t end on its own

Sauli Niinistö

President of Finland

The Finnish leader is confident that Russian border guards have begun to allow refugees into the Northern European country without requiring them to have a Schengen visa, which they had not done before. Finland, for its part, can only accept asylum seekers so as not to violate European rules.

In Russia, Niinistö’s words were criticized. Official representative Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova called the Finnish leader’s statement absolutely groundless, and the Russian press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow regrets Helsinki’s decision because the two countries have “long-standing, very good, pragmatic relations based on mutual respect.”

Asylum seekers in the city of Lappeenranta. Photo: Vesa Moilanen / IMAGO / Lehtikuva / TASS

“Of course, we regret that these relations were replaced by such an exclusively Russophobic position, which the leaders of this country began to adhere to,” said a Kremlin official representative.

Meanwhile, Finland admits that due to the closure of the checkpoint on the Russian border will arise Problems. According to the country’s Defense Minister Antti Häkkänen, people with two passports – Finnish and Russian – will suffer. “Of course, we strive to mitigate these problems. But we will not deviate from our principles,” he emphasized.

Russians living in Finland are cut off from their families and fear the Iron Curtain

On November 18, Finland already closed four checkpoints with Russia: Vaalimaa – Torfyanovka, Nuijamaa – Brusnichnoe, Imatra – Svetogorsk, Niirala – Vyartsilya. These crossings were used by the vast majority of Russian and Finnish citizens, and about 90 percent of freight and passenger traffic passed through them.

The restriction will be in effect until February 18, 2024, but this regime may be extended. Currently, the Finnish military has arrived to help the border guards and together they are erecting temporary barriers.

On November 18, Finnish authorities closed four checkpoints on the border with Russia. Photo: Lauri Heino / IMAGO / Lehtikuva / TASS

Because of this, a large number of people have crowded at other checkpoints who want to cross the border. Several dozen asylum seekers are stuck at checkpoints because Finnish border guards are turning them away.

The problems that the head of the Finnish Ministry of Defense is talking about are already worrying Russians living in the European country. They held a rally against the closure of the checkpoint near the Finnish parliament in Helsinki. About three hundred people took part in the action, they held posters “Don’t deprive us of contact with our families”, “Happy New Year without a family”, “Having a family is a right, not a privilege”, “Closing borders will not help solve the problem” , “We want to see our families.”

Resident of Helsinki Vera Ponomareva came to the demonstration with a poster “Iron Curtain 2023”. She and her daughter have lived in Finland for a long time and often visit Vera’s parents in St. Petersburg. “In fact, I feel cut off from my family. We are all very worried because we remember what the Iron Curtain was. It’s very scary to go back to this,” tells Faith. According to her, all her relatives are worried about what is happening at the border:

Yesterday my parents cried into my phone because they are afraid that they will not see us again

One of the organizers of the rally, Olga Chertousova, moved to Finland in May: her husband was offered a job. According to her, the Russians fully support the Finnish authorities’ desire for security. “But we are also in favor of ensuring that our right to travel and communicate with our family is not violated,” she explained.

Activist Sergei, who came to the rally, agrees with her. He has been working in Finland for six years and has Russian and Finnish citizenship. A few days ago he returned from his parents, who live in St. Petersburg. “Then I didn’t know that I wouldn’t see them soon. It’s sad that Finland, which was once so close, is becoming so far away. What do you have to travel through now? Estoniaand if it closes, you’ll have to fly through Istanbul“, he explained.

Who can get to Finland and how much does it cost?

Telegram channels are teeming with messages about what is happening at the border and how Russians can still get to Finland. Currently, all border crossings that continue to operate are outside Leningrad region. This is Vartius – Lyuttya and Kuusamo – Suoperya in KareliaSalla and Raya-Josepi – Lotta in Murmansk region. There are only two checkpoints for refugees – Salla and Vartius.

What categories of Russians can get to Finland

Holders of a European residence permit, students of European universities and colleges, diplomats, as well as tourists who fly to a non-Schengen country on the same day can get from Russia to Finland by bus or by car with European license plates.

Bus companies began hastily canceling flights to Helsinki from November 18, Imatra and Lappeenranta. Against this background, private carriers have become more active, wanting to make money from the current situation. As they write in Telegram chats, they offer to take everyone to Finland for 700 euros (67.8 thousand rubles).

From Petrozavodsk There is one bus going to Helsinki through the Vartius checkpoint; a ticket costs 140 euros (13.5 thousand rubles). You can also cross the border in a car with non-Russian license plates (since November 16, Finnish authorities have banned cars with Russian registration plates from crossing the border).

You can also get to Finland via Norway — by bus or car with European and other registration plates (from October 3, the entry of cars with Russian license plates is prohibited).

In addition, it is possible that the Finnish scenario will soon be repeated in Norway: local authorities have already announced their readiness, if necessary, to close the checkpoint on the border with Russia

Finnish authorities complain about the flow of migrants from Somalia, Syria and Iraq. Photo: Vesa Moilanen / IMAGO / Lehtikuva / TASS

You can also get to Helsinki from Moscow and St. Petersburg by plane. A flight with two or three transfers from the Russian capital to Helsinki and back will cost at least 86.5 thousand rubles.

You can fly through Armenia: from Russia – to Yerevan, and then with a low-cost airline in Helsinki. Considering that there are no direct flights, you will have to stop by one of the European cities, and only from there to Finland. A round trip flight costs from 58.5 thousand rubles, and an air ticket from Moscow to Yerevan and back will cost another 20 thousand.

A similar option is through Turkey. A flight from Istanbul to Helsinki and back costs 44 thousand rubles, another 20 thousand costs a ticket Moscow – Istanbul – Moscow.

Empty petition

Meanwhile, Finnish activists created petition against closing borders with Russia. At the time of writing, she had collected 13.5 thousand signatures. The author of the document, Petri Mattinen, writes: “The government’s decision to completely close the border between Finland and Russia is contrary to human rights. We demand the law be changed because it breaks family ties. Many have close relatives on both sides of the border. Children do not see their grandparents,” the document says.

About 300 Russians gathered in the center of Helsinki demanding that the Finnish-Russian border not be closed. Photo: Sergei Grits / AP

The author added that some parents have joint custody of their children: “Do children now have to choose which parent to stay with?
And who will take care of lonely sick elderly people? Keep at least one border crossing in southern Finland open.”

We are talking about opening a simplified checkpoint “Parikkala”. It is not international; transport transportation was previously carried out through it, but it could also be used by citizens of Finland and Russia who had obtained permission in advance. It was closed in April 2022.

The Russians who signed the document believe that it is not fully thought out. “The petition, of course, is empty. There are no proposals: about organizing at least one point the opportunity to travel under certain regulations, including those with a residence permit, that at least a bus service could be maintained, about opportunities for children not only to go to visit, but also to go to school “reacted Russian woman Irina Rostovtseva.

According to her, Finns “sort of revere the institution of the family,” and in this case, “hundreds of families will be in a terrible situation.” “And in any case, organizing a travel corridor for those with documents, visas, etc. is a smaller problem than this closure and chaos,” says Irina

Russian Anna agrees with her. “I signed the petition. But in general, this is kind of creepy, I need to visit my loved ones in Russia, but I just don’t know how to do it now,” the interlocutor commented on the situation.

Due to the closure of the checkpoint on the Russian-Finnish border, both sides found themselves in a difficult situation, says Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor at St. Petersburg State University Natalya Eremina. According to her, Russia should expect further tightening from Finland, since the geopolitical interests of the two countries diverge.

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