Border queues and flights sell out as Kremlin denies Russians fleeing after call-up order


The number of Russians crossing the Finnish border “intensified” overnight after Vladimir Putin’s dramatic announcement that Moscow would begin military mobilization for the war in Ukraine, officials in Helskini said.

This was announced by Matti Pitkaniitty, head of international affairs at the Finnish border guard Reuters that 4,824 Russians arrived in Finland via the eastern border on Wednesday, up from 3,133 on the same day a week earlier.

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On Wednesday there were reports of sold-out flights to countries including Turkey and Georgia after the Russian leader spoke.

“Traffic on the Finnish-Russian border intensified during the night,” said Pitkaniitty. “The number has definitely gone up.”

Traffic at the Vaalimaa border crossing – one of nine with Russia – stretched about 400 meters on Thursday morning.

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Finland, which has the European Union’s longest border with Russia at 1,300 km (807 miles), has opted to keep its border open despite reducing the number of consular appointments for Russian travelers applying for a visa.

Finnish land crossings are among the few entry points into Europe for ordinary Russians after many Western countries closed borders and airspace to planes in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen said Helsinki is closely monitoring the situation.

Finland is one of the European countries in the Schengen area with open borders. Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Helsinki was trying to get the numbers “under control”.

A selection of countries highlighted in yellow to which Russians can travel without a visa

(Independently)

“Finland does not want to be a transit country for Schengen visas issued by other countries. This is the traffic we want to get under control.

“The fear is that we will be the only border country through which it will be possible to get from Russia to Europe with Schengen visas issued by other countries.”

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

The three Baltic states will not offer sanctuary to Russians fleeing Moscow’s troop mobilization, their ministers said.

Putin announced on Wednesday the mobilization of an expected 300,000 reservists for the Russian army after military setbacks for Moscow in Ukraine in recent weeks.

The news prompted many Russians to leave the country immediately, and there were reports of people fleeing to Turkey and Georgia, among other places, where visas are not required to enter.

Despite sanctions preventing or making it difficult for Russians to travel to many Western countries, there are almost 90 countries where they can travel without a visa.

Airline ticket prices from Moscow soared to over £3,000 for one-way travel to the nearest foreign locations, with most airfare tickets completely sold out for the coming days.

Social media groups gave advice on how to get out of Russia, while one news site featured a list of “where to flee Russia immediately”.

“War is terrible,” said Sergei, a Russian who declined to give his last name Reuters when he arrived in Belgrade, the Serbian capital. “It’s okay to be afraid of war and death and things like that.”

Another Russian in Istanbul said he left Russia partly because of the mobilization.

Police arrest a woman in Moscow amid widespread protests against Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization order

(Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)

“The partial mobilization is one of the reasons I’m here,” he said. “It seems like a very bad move and it can cause a lot of problems for a lot of Russians.”

However, the Kremlin said there was a lot of “misinformation” about people leaving Russia.

“The information about the hype around airports and so on is very exaggerated,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“There is a lot of fake information about it. We have to be very careful about this so as not to become a victim of misinformation on this matter.”



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