Train traffic between St. Petersburg and Helsinki has been brisk since the start of Russia’s hostilities in Ukraine.
In Ukraine the war that has broken out and the sanctions imposed on Russia have set in motion several Russians, and the number of Russians arriving in Helsinki is clearly increasing.
The disruption of scheduled flights has put people on trains and this is reflected in the number of passengers on the trains. Since Sunday, all Allegro trains departing from St. Petersburg have been full, VR reports.
Clock after six on Wednesday night, the last Allegro train of the day rolls quietly towards Helsinki Central Station, slightly behind schedule.
Soon before, there was no sign of the peace that had prevailed at the station.
The full train from St. Petersburg empties in an instant, and hundreds of people continue in a hurry towards the next leg of their journey. Others start looking for their loved ones waiting on the pier.
Ukraine is currently a sensitive topic for many Russians, and many refuse to comment publicly.
At the station, however, we encounter a Muscovite who has traveled to Finland with his family Dimitrin.
“I have a work visa that went into effect in early March. I already knew six months ago that moving to Finland was ahead, but now we just want to get as far as possible from there (Russia), ”he says.
Dimitri does not personally know people who have fled Russia for fear of the effects of the sanctions, but said they had heard of them. According to him, the Russians are worried about the recent sanctions, although their real impact has not yet been seen.
“At this point, it is difficult to assess how the sanctions will work in practice. There are also many different social classes in Russia that are hit differently by sanctions. ”
Dimitri and his family were lucky to be able to leave their struggling homeland behind. However, he is concerned about his parents and in-laws who remained in Moscow.
Finland Association of Russian-speaking Associations, acting as project manager at FARO Darya Gulik has received dozens of messages in recent days from Russians asking for help arriving in Finland.
“People are fleeing sanctions because they fear that ordinary life in Russia will become impossible,” Gulik says.
Gulikin Most arrivals in Finland have relatives in Finland or elsewhere in Europe with whom they initially settle. Many of them later hope to get a longer residence permit, and work.
“They want to get out or see their relatives now, before the borders can be completely closed.”
Due to the current situation, there may be more people leaving Russia, but not everyone can afford to travel, or a valid visa.
“Everyone who comes to Europe are people who have recently traveled. It is currently difficult to obtain new travel visas. ”
To Finland At the age of 18 he moved from Russia Kristina was in St. Petersburg at the funeral of his relatives when sanctions on Russia began and flights between Russia and Europe were stopped.
“We started reading different news and friends living in Finland were afraid that the borders would be closed. We quickly noticed that train tickets were no longer available and we were afraid that the trains would not run anymore, ”says Kristina.
Kristina returned to Finland on Monday, a few days earlier than planned.
“There was a feeling that you had to get out of there all of a sudden. There were a lot of different families and people on the train who wanted to leave Russia. ”
Currently, only people with either Finnish or Russian citizenship can run on VR’s trains.
According to Kristina, the war in Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions have already caused anxiety among Russians.
“People have noticed that most payment instruments no longer work and that payment can only be made with Russian payment cards. My friends have also said that the prices of many products have already risen by more than 30%. ”
Kristina says she has several friends who plan to go abroad because of sanctions. However, they too have noticed that train tickets are not easy to get at the moment.
In addition to rising prices, the country’s current prospects are also worrying.
“People are annoyed that the whole world is going to hate Russia and the Russians because of the war, even if there is no reason for it. In addition, they fear that they will not be able to travel anywhere for a long time. ”
Putin military action in Ukraine has provoked opposition in Russia.
“I think what is happening in Ukraine is terrible and scary,” says Dimitri.
According to Kristina, protests against Russia’s military action are on the rise in Russia day by day.
“Many Russians have close relations with Ukraine, and the situation is not comfortable for them at all.”
Kristina says that she is half Ukrainian and that she also has relatives stuck in the city of Zhytomyr, near Kiev.
The Russians who contacted Gulik have also been unanimous in their opposition to the war, and many of them have taken part in anti-war demonstrations.
Russian media are currently disseminating information that every Russian citizen who helps or supports Ukraine will be considered a traitor and punished.
According to Kristina, similar rules are not new to the Russians.
“Everyone already knows that opposing Russian politics is dangerous.”
According to Dimitr, there is a great deal of conflicting information in Russia about what is happening in Ukraine, and citizens’ attitudes to the situation in Ukraine vary.
“I myself have received information from various websites and through social media, while others have to rely on national television news.”
From St. Petersburg Two trains a day arrive in Finland.
VR’s Director of Passenger Traffic Topi Simolan according to the number of passengers on the trains began to show clear changes on Saturday.
“Due to the corona pandemic, the passenger capacity of VR’s trains has been halved, which means that slightly less than 700 people arrive from Russia a day,” says Simola.
The number of people who arrived from St. Petersburg on Monday last week was 78.
Usually, slightly more than half of those arriving in Finland by train from St. Petersburg are Russian citizens. On Monday, the share of Russians was already almost 70 percent.
VR expects traffic between Finland and Russia to remain brisk in the coming weeks.
“The next vacancies are a few days away,” Simola says.
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