Norway closes border for Russians tourists and shoppers

Storskog closes for Russian citizens traveling on tourism and shopping purposes from May 29. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

End comes to the last open land-border to Schengen-Europe for Russian citizens traveling on leisure and non-essential travel.

‘The decision to tighten the entry rules are in line with the Norwegian approach of standing by allies and partners in the reactions against Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine,’ says the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Emilie Enger Mehl, in a press-statement Thursday morning.

The change implies that the police can refuse the entry of Russian citizens who are covered by the instruction.

“They will be deported if they attempt to cross the border. This applies both for the Storskog border checkpoint and at Norway’s external border in general, the Minister says to newspaper VG.

Storskog has since September 2022 been the only open land border from Russia to Schengen-Europe for Russian citizens on shopping or vacation travel. Poland, the Baltic States and Finland all decided to close their borders for non-essential travel soon after Russia launched its all-out war against Ukraine.

This is a response coming as a result of the brutal war in Ukraine, the Minister says to VG.

Minister of Justice, Emilie Enger Mehl (left), argues that summer is coming and Norway does not want to have Russian tourists. Here at a visit to the border together with Chief of Police in Finnmark, Ellen Katrine Hætta. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The decision will also put an end to cross-border shopping. Kirkenes, the border town, has until now been a destination for mini-buses with shoppers from Russia’s Kola Peninsula, as previously reported by the Barents Observer.

Thousands of exile-Russians are living in Norway. The Minister says relatives will still be allowed to come visiting.

Family-visits still ok 

Exceptions will be granted in certain cases, for instance to visit close family (parents, spouses, cohabitants and children) residing in Norway and for Russian citizens who will work or study in Norway or other Schengen countries, the Ministry statement makes clear.

The police in Finnmark informs to the Barents Observer that 5,337 border crossings took place at Storskog in April. That was up 2,3% from March, but down 18,5% compared with April 2023.

Diplomats and Russians living and working at Svalbard will still be allowed to travel via Storskog.

The Barents Observer on Wednesday reported on how an agent from Murmansk frequently over the last decade had crossed the Storskog border,  infiltrated the Barents cooperation, built a network of contacts across Northern Norway and tried to recruit an exile-Soviet citizen to take photos of military installations for money.

Dmitri Peskov, spokesperson for the Kremlin, says to newspaper Izvestia that “such decisions cannot remain unanswered.” He did not elaborate on possible response measures by his regime towards Norway.

Related stories from around the North: 

Finland: EU guards to remain at Finnish-Russian border until at least autumn, Yle News

Norway: Norwegian border town finally scraps cooperation agreement with Russian neighbor, The Independent Barents Observer

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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