Cape Town - There has been an increase in luxury cars such as Porsches, Mercedes-Benz and Bentleys with Russian number plates filling up Finland’s airport parking garage.
AFP reported that Helsinki’s airport has become somewhat of a transit country for Russian tourists who are looking to travel to their holiday destinations following the European Union’s decision to shut its airspace to Russian planes due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
And, since Russia ended its Covid-19 restrictions in July, there has been a surge in Russian travellers across Europe.
“It boggles me… I wish they weren't here before Ukraine's situation is solved,” said a Finnish traveller, Jussi Hirvonen after leaving the garage.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said the country has become a "transit country" for Russian tourists and that it is looking to limit Russian tourist visas to 10% of current volumes as of September 1 because of the increasing discontent over Russian tourism amid the conflict.
However, Russian visitors may legally continue to enter Finland with visas issued by other EU countries in the Schengen borderless travel area for their journeys.
“They come here on Schengen visas issued by various different countries and then continue further via Helsinki airport,” said Haavisto.
According to The Moscow Times, last week the European Commission was in discussions around a “coordinated approach” on Russian visas. While Eastern EU countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have already stopped issuing new tourist visas to Russians, Estonia has gone a step further and is looking at stopping Russians who have visas delivered by other EU states.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that “this is not the Russian people's war, it is Putin's war,” and has expressed reservations about such visa restrictions, and added that limiting tourist visas could also have an affect on “all the people who flee Russia because they disagree with the Russian regime”.