Finland said that the number of Russian citizens entering the country over the weekend spiked sharply, after the order to mobilize troops and the two countries to ease Covid-19 restrictions.
“The past two days have been the busiest weekend this year for eastern border traffic,” said Border Force Mert Sasioglu. Finland said today.
According to Finnish border guards, nearly 8,600 people that entry through the land border on September 24 and nearly 4,200 people through other routes. By September 25, the number of people crossing the border on land was more than 8,300 and other routes were close to 5,100.
“The entry rate has doubled from a week ago. The main reason is the mobilization order, but partly because both Finland and Russia have relaxed the Covid-19 restrictions that were in place during the summer. “, added Sasioglu.
Finland’s neighbor Norway, not a member of the European Union (EU) but a member of the Schengen area, also reported a slight increase in the number of people entering from Russia at the Storskog border crossing in the country’s northernmost tip. On September 25, 243 people entered Norway from Russia, of which 167 had a Schengen visa, while 91 left Norway for Russia, according to Norwegian police.
Police stressed that these numbers are still lower than pre-pandemic levels, but are likely to rise further this week.
Other countries, such as Georgia and Turkey, have also reported an increase in arrivals from Russia in recent days.
Russia has not yet commented on these reports.
Finland announced on September 23 that it plans to “significantly restrict the entry of Russian citizens” and will finalize the decision in the “coming days”. While the restriction has not yet taken effect, the border force said it was ready to apply the new rule “within a day”.
According to Sasioglu, border guards are preparing for “difficult developments”. “It is possible that when travel is restricted, illegal border crossing attempts will increase,” the official said.
Finnish border guards on September 24 arrested four people suspected of illegally crossing the border in the Kuusamo region, in the east of the country. This group of people immediately applied for asylum when detained.
Russia last week issued a partial mobilization order for reserve forces. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that the military plans to mobilize 300,000 additional servicemen in reserve to serve in the military operation in Ukraine, equivalent to more than 1% of Russia’s total mobilization potential of 25 million people.
Ukraine and the West criticized Russia’s move, calling it a “bad, wrong step” and a “disturbing escalation”. The Baltic states or the Czech Republic have announced that they are not granting asylum to Russians who want to avoid the mobilization order. Meanwhile, Germany announced that it is ready to receive these people.
Huyen Le (Theo AFP)