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Russians flood into Finland for Christmas and New Year holiday

Border crossing points in the southeast of Finland are getting ready for the onrush of Russian Christmas tourists. After a couple of quieter years, car-, bus-, and trainloads of Russian shoppers and holidaymakers are expected to storm Finland in record numbers.
Already some 70,000 Russian have made accommodation reservations. Last Christmas the total number of Russian overnight visitors was 50,000. Also the number of visas granted by the Finnish Embassy in St. Petersburg has risen by a third from Christmas 2005.

"The measures introduced to tackle congestion at the border crossing points include the entire staff working long shifts", informs Major Harri Malmén, head of the Lappeenranta Border Guard District.
Russian border officials have promised similar steps.
In railway traffic, an additional 32 passenger trains will enter Finland through the Vainikkala border crossing point, ten more than were laid on last year. Some of the trains are special departures that transport their passengers directly to destination resorts, such as Vuokatti. Even normal trains are fully booked.
"Even more trains would have come in handy, but we are already approaching the maximum capacity of the Finnish rail network", Malmén adds.

On Monday, the police, together with customs officials and the Border Guard, organised intensified border control inspections. Even motor vehicle and work safety inspectors took part in the effort.
In the passenger traffic the focus was on illegal immigrants and drugs, but nothing dramatic was uncovered.
In heavy goods traffic, vehicles' running recorders and equipment were inspected. Most cautions were given regarding the brakes and the headlights. Some chassis defects and excessive loading were also discovered.
In most cases the aim was to rectify the deficiencies on the spot. Four unroadworthy vehicles were ordered to return to Russia. Even one Finnish truck was ordered to unload its freight at the border crossing.
"The entire Russian heavy goods stock is on the road at the turn of the year, which naturally increases the number of vehicles we see in poor condition", Jouni Laurén, head of Nuijamaa border crossing point explains.
Also, the used trucks purchased from the West are starting to approach the end of their natural lives. Russian cars, by contrast, are of much better quality than a few years ago.

"The truck queues outside the border crossing points are expected to lengthen again towards the New Year", predicts Petri Kukkonen, head of Nuijamaa Customs.
Most congestion is expected on Highway 7. People seem to want to drive through the Vaalimaa checkpoint, even though the situation would be much better at Imatra and Nuijamaa.
According to Kukkonen, the Russian Customs have intensified their efforts commendably. In the spring, the Russian Torfyanovka checkpoint across the border from Vaalimaa was able to handle 400 truck inspections in a 24-hour period. Now the corresponding figure is 860.
The Brusnitšnoye checkpoint opposite Nuijamaa is able to check 600 trucks a day.

There are three peak times for the Russian Christmas and New Year holiday season in Finland.
The first peak will take place after December 15th, as shoppers pour in. The second, larger one hits the week between Christmas and the New Year, and the third one - the largest influx of all - comes just after the New Year, when many Russians are on holiday between the 2nd and 10th of January.

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