Finland says EU curb on Russian visas a step 'in right direction'

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FILE PHOTO: NATO summit in Madrid

HELSINKI (Reuters) -The European Union's move to restrict travel visas for Russians due to Moscow's war in Ukraine is a step "in the right direction" if implemented by member states, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Wednesday.

EU foreign ministers agreed to fully suspend a visa facilitation agreement with Russia, making it harder and more costly for Russian citizens to enter the EU, the bloc's foreign policy chief, Josep Borell, said.

"This goes in the right direction but once again we saw that so far there has been a lot of talk and little action," Haavisto told reporters, adding the situation should be re-evaluated within a few months.

Finland and other EU members that share a land border with Russia, including the Baltic states and Poland, have been calling for an EU-wide tourist visa ban for Russians.

"When Russia is invading Ukraine and we receive refugees from Ukraine and try to help Ukraine in every way, this is not a time for holidaymaking and luxury tourism (for Russians)," Haavisto said.

Last week, Finland's largest daily, Helsingin Sanomat, counted 1,400 cars with Russian licence plates parked at Helsinki's main airport, many of them luxury brands, sparking sharp public criticism.

An increasing number of Russian holidaymakers headed to different European destinations via Finland led the Finnish government to heavily restrict the number of tourist visas Finland grants to Russians to 10% of previous numbers.

Russian tourists who hold tourist visas granted by other EU member countries will nevertheless be able to travel via Finland.

(Reporting by Anne KauranenEditing by Gareth Jones and Nick Macfie)