Porsches, Bentleys and other luxury cars with Russian licence plates are filling the parking garage at Helsinki airport as Finland becomes an important transit country for Russian tourists flying to Europe.
The EU shut its airspace to Russian planes after Moscow invaded Ukraine, forcing anyone who wants to travel to Europe to drive across the border or take a circuitous route using non-western airlines.
Since Russia’s Covid-19 restrictions expired in July, there has been a boom in the number of Russian travellers and a rising backlash in Europe against allowing Russian tourists to enter while the war continues.
A quick stroll through the car park at Helsinki airport revealed dozens if not hundreds of high-end cars with Russian plates, including a new Mercedes-Benz S-class sedan and Porsche 911 Turbo S.
“It boggles me,” a Finnish traveller, Jussi Hirvonen, said after leaving the garage. “I wish they weren’t here before Ukraine’s situation is solved.”
The Finnish foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, said Finland had become a “transit country” for Russian tourists. “Helsinki airport is seeing a lot of Russian tourism at the moment,” he added.
Finland said last week it would limit the number of Russian tourist visas to 10% of current volumes as of 1 September after rising discontent over Russian tourism amid the war in Ukraine.
Russians continue to enter Finland with visas issued by other EU countries in the Schengen borderless travel area for their journeys. “They come here on Schengen visas issued by various different countries and then continue further via Helsinki airport,” Haavisto said.