Improved road between Russia and Finland boosts cross-border travel

Murmansk-cars lined up at the parking area outside a Finnish supermarket in Ivalo. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
The growth in travelers from Murmansk to northernmost Finland was more than twice the 2019-growth on the Russian-Norwegian border.

For the first time in many years the number of travelers across the northernmost EU-Russia border checkpoint, Raja-Jooseppi / Lotta, increases.

The growth was 9,2% from 2018 to 2019, the statistics from Finland’s Border Guard service show.

That is good news for Ivalo. The town’s two larger grocery stores are a popular destination for many people from Murmansk heading across the border to buy food-stuff no longer found in Murmansk-stores due to Russia’s counter sanctions against the EU.

Russia imposed sanctions against diary products like cheese and yogurt made in EU-countries after Brussels announced its list of sanctions on Moscow after Russia’s 2014-annexation of Crimea.

Private people can bring, for own consumption, some food bought in Finland.

80,864 border-crossings were counted last year at Raja-Jooseppi, up from 74,063 in 2018.

The road between Murmansk and Ivalo goes for a large part through forest wilderness and has been infamous for its uncomfortable drive. Especially so in the spring when the splashy unpaved parts more felt like driving a potato-field than an actual road.

Nowadays, the road is becoming much better. The upgrade started after the joint Russian-EU cross-border financing mechanism Kolarctic granted €4,5 million in 2018 to improve the road.

Repair and safety upgrades will continue for another two years period, as previously reported by the Barents Observer.

Ivalo is the nearest town in Finnish Lapland from Russia’s Kola Peninsula. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Another €11 million will be invested in brand new infrastructure facilities at the Raja-Jooseppi checkpoint between the countries. 90% of the costs are to be covered by the European Union Kolarctic program, the Barents Observer reported.

The project is to be completed by late 2021.

While Raja-Jooseppi traffic is growing, the second border check-point from Russia to Lapland at Salla saw a 4% decrease in travelers last year. The Salla check-point further south is mainly used for those heading towards Rovaniemi, a drive that requires a night stay-over.

Border traffic between the Kola Peninsula and Norway at Borisoglebsk-Storskog check-points had a growth of 4% from 2018 to 2019. There are still more people crossing the Norwegian-Russian border than the combined traffic from Russia to Finland at Raja-Jooseppi and Salla.

Nuijamaa and Vaalimaa are the busiest border check-points between Russia and Finland with 3 million and 2,46 million travelers last year, the figures from the Border Guard service show.

In total, 9,5 million travelers crossed the borders between the two countries in 2019, up 5,5% from 2018.

Related stories from around the North:

Finland: Mushers from Russia’s Arctic Brigade practice dog sledding along Finnish border, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: 4% border traffic growth between Norway and Russia in 2019, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia releases Norwegian ex-border inspector in 3-way spy swap involving Lithuania, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Alaska losing $102M in military construction for wall on U.S.-Mexico border, Alaska Public Media

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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