Finland shares a 1,300-kilometre frontier with Russia and the border towns are especially popular destinations for Russian tourists. It is currently the only neighbouring country that still issues tourist visas for Russians, although it is preparing to restrict them.
Until then, Finnish towns are showing support for Ukraine in their own way. The city of Imatra hosts one of the country’s best known natural attractions. The Imatrankoski rapids have been popular with Russians for centuries, even Empress Catherine the Great having visited them in 1772, AFP reports.
The dam that lets water rush under the bridge opens at the same time every day and it usually plays music by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. For a few weeks however, the city decided to open the dam to the sound of the Ukrainian anthem.
One of the Russian tourists present at the opening told AFP that this would certainly deter the Russians who love Finland from visiting, but he and his family understand Ukrainians and why the city is playing the anthem. At the same time, he wants to remind people that “some Russians don’t like this war. Not all Russians are for Putin and the government and all people must understand this.”
The nearby city of Lappeenranta is also a popular destination for Russians. They mainly come here for shopping, especially for clothes and cosmetics. The city now plays the Ukrainian anthem every morning from the city hall speakers, loudly enough to cover the shopping streets.
Zelensky has recently called on western countries to forbid all Russian citizens, saying that they should remain isolated in their own world until the war is over. Some EU Member States have joined the call, especially the ones on the Eastern border, who take the highest influx of Russian tourists since flights are not permitted.
The issue of banning all Russians is a delicate one. On the one hand, a lot of people have families across the border. “In Saint Petersburg, many people have grandpapas and grandmamas from Finland, like my wife”, Mark Kosykh, a 44-year-old Russian told AFP. They visit Finland every year. A lot of people have also fled Russia precisely because they are against the war. On the other hand, there are really inconsiderate tourists, one woman recently became the most hated Russian tourist in Europe for harassing Ukrainian refugees in Austria.