Russian citizens and Finnish border guard (front left) and customs official ('Tulli') at the Vaalimaa border check point between Finland and Russia in Virolahti, Finland on Friday, 30th Sep., 2022. LEHTIKUVA


Finland is tightening its borders as new regulations regarding the entry of Russian-registered vehicles come into force. Beginning at midnight between September 15 and 16, only EU citizens permanently residing in Russia, their family members, diplomats and those entering for humanitarian reasons will be allowed to bring Russian-registered personal vehicles into Finland.

This measure comes as a direct response to the sanctions imposed due to Russia's aggressive actions against Ukraine.

Finland is committed to fully implementing these sanctions, emphasizing effectiveness in their enforcement and the prevention of sanctions circumvention. With border states being particularly vulnerable to attempts at avoiding these sanctions, Finland underscores the importance of a unified interpretation of the sanction regulations among EU member states, especially those at the border.

On September 8, the European Commission issued a guideline related to the prohibition of importing personal cars into the European Union, making it clear that the import of cars registered in Russia, even temporarily for tourism purposes, is unequivocally prohibited under Council Regulation (EU) No 833/2014. This directive was updated on September 12, emphasizing the significant risk of sanctions circumvention associated with vehicle imports.

Finland's Customs will begin applying this national directive at the stroke of midnight, meaning any personal vehicles bearing Russian registration plates will be denied entry into Finland. Exceptions to this rule include vehicles belonging to EU/EEA citizens permanently residing in Russia (including dual citizens) and their family members. Additionally, diplomatic vehicles and those entering for humanitarian reasons are exempt from the ban.

For vehicles already in Finland prior to the ban, owners are given until March 16, 2024, to ensure these vehicles exit the country. While these guidelines focus on vehicular entry, they do not change the criteria for personal entry into the country.

Furthermore, the directive is not just limited to private vehicles but also extends to those used for commercial purposes. The restrictions cover all vehicles primarily intended for passenger transport, which includes cars, tourist vehicles, and minibuses with a capacity of fewer than 10 passengers.

Collaboration between Finland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Customs has been crucial in the preparation of this directive. In Finland, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds the authority, with Customs serving as the enforcing body regarding the EU-imposed sanctions on Russia.

Sami Rakshit, the head of the Control Department, emphasized the importance of collaboration among EU border states in ensuring effective sanctions enforcement. Notably, neighboring countries like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are adopting similar regulations for Russian-registered vehicles. Rakshit also highlighted that apart from the eastern border, Finland's Customs is monitoring the entry of Russian vehicles on the Norwegian border since Norway is not an EU member and the sanctions prohibit car imports into the EU territory.

Finland's latest move is a clear testament to its commitment to uphold EU sanctions, ensuring robust measures to curtail any potential bypassing attempts.