Russians travel through Norway to shop in Finland
Even if the border between Finland and Russia is closed, and visas for Russians have been cancelled, Russians have discovered a legal loophole and come shopping in northern Finland.
Since Norway has not closed its border to Russians, they can enter the country with valid visas through the Storskog border post and then enter Schengen country Finland to shop.
Media reports from the area reported the presence of busloads of people circulating daily with long shopping lists often containing popular foodstuffs like coffee, chocolate and cheese.
Authorities appear helpless to react; under current regulations, accountability is blurred.
Asked by YLE, the Foreign Ministry said sanctioned products should not be sold if it is evident that the customer will export them to Russia.
The Finnish Customs commented on the phenomenon that traffic could not be halted because of Schengen rules. In case Russians do not ask for a tax refund, the shop does not inspect passports, and they can shop freely, meaning that sanctioned items can end up in shopping bags.
Talking to YLE, the Customs officer Kari Hannu, Customs obviously checks what is exported from Finland, but if the products are to be taken from Norway to Russia, the responsibility lies with Norwegian Customs.
Meanwhile, the attitude among local shopkeepers seems to vary. While one does not give Russians the opportunity for tax refunds, another writes tax-free receipts and hands the responsibilities over to Customs authorities.
(Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)