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Political crisis stalls Finnish shipments of cars to Russia and chills tourist trade

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic

The crisis involving Ukraine and Russia has weakened the ruble and dampened the Russian appetite for imported cars.

As a result the Kotka-Hamina port has seen a pileup of new cars with no buyers in the formerly vehicle-hungry eastern neighbor.

The trade in new cars to Russia has decelerated considerably in the wake of the Ukraine-Russia political crisis and the resulting weakening of the ruble, says Kimmo Naski, harbormaster of the Kotka-Hamina port in southeast Finland.

The slowdown in the cross-border vehicle trade has caused a backlog of new vehicles crowding the harbor parking area. The brake in demand has coincided with a constant influx of new cars into Finland from locations such as Germany and the Far East, the port chief said.

Usually some 100,000 vehicles bound for Russia pass through the Kotka-Hamina port annually. That figure has remained constant for five to six years, port authorities added.

The last time the parking area was as full of cars was before the financial downturn in 2008, they add. Just a few years ago, the area was almost empty as imported cars rapidly transited through Finland to new owners in Russia.

Russian tourism to Finland falls

Meanwhile, the number of overnight stays by Russian visitors fell by 14 percent nationwide in March, compared to one year earlier.

Russians are the largest national group among tourists in Finland, but the decline among visitors of all nationalities was nearly 8 percent.

Statistics Finland figures for March show that the number of overnight stays by Russian visitors was 14 percent lower than in March 2013. The total number of overnight stays was down by 7.7 percent, indicating a greater decline among Russians than among visitors in general.

The figures show regional differences in Russian visits. In Kymenlaakso and North Karelia, both close to the Russian border, the year-on-year drop was around 25 percent. In South Ostrobothnia, on the other hand, the number of overnight stays grew slightly. All other regions showed a drop in visits from Russians.

In total some 109,000 overnight stays by Russians were recorded in the statistics for March.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.