Finland deploys round-the-clock control to stop Russian cars transiting via Norway
Two weeks have passed since Finland, like the Baltic states and Poland, decided to turn around all Russian vehicles with less than 10 seats at the borders.
A challenge, though, is caused by Norway which still allows for entry via Storskog, Europe’s northernmost checkpoint with Russia.
Finnish Customs officials confirm the extra resources deployed to the border with one dedicated aim, to stop cars with Russian registration plates.
“Monitoring the sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia has required significant resources from Customs and we have directed our activities accordingly. Currently, we have been able to monitor the Norwegian border by prioritising and using personnel from other locations,” says Head of Communications with Finnish Customs, Reetta Salonen, to the Barents Observer.
Neiden (Näätamö) is less than an hour’s drive from Storskog and a well-known entry point to Finland for Russians in transit via Norway’s northeastern corner.
The three Customs officials, two Finnish and one Norwegian, on duty when Barents Observer visited at late night confirmed that their prime mission is Russian cars.
Such vehicles are not queuing up, but Finland has a zero-entry policy after the European Commission on September 8 published a policy update underlining that the sanctions on cars have to be followed.
“The number of Russian-registered cars turned back at the border with Norway was nine as of Monday, September 25,” says Salonen.
In comparison, only one car was stopped at Raja-Jooseppi, Finland’s northernmost direct checkpoint with Russia during the first days of the ban. At Salla, also in Lapland, none Russian registered cars attempted to enter.
Finland has six cross-border roads to Norway in the north: Neiden (Näätämö), Kilpisjärvi, Karigasniemi, Kivilompolo, Nuorgam, and Utsjoki.
At Neiden, Customs officials are present during day-time, with only random checks during evenings and night. Now, the border is manned day-and-night.
Extra eyes are also on the five other remote roads between the countries, but the officials are unwilling to give details.
Norway is not a member of the European Union but follows most of the sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine
A spokesperson with the Foreign Ministry in Oslo told the Barents Observer in mid-September that the guidelines by the European Commission would be “looked into”.
Today, the ministry says restrictions will come.
State Secretary Eivind Vad Petersson writes in an email that Oslo is in dialogue with Finnish authorities.
“Norway will, like Finland, introduce limitations for Russian registered cars,” he says and adds that this will happen soon.
“We will shortly detail concrete measures for the Norwegian-Russian border.”
During summer months, traffic increased as many tourists in cars from Moscow and St. Petersburg drove north, took advantage of Norway’s open border policy, and headed in transit to other European destinations.