HELSINKI — Finland’s national railway operator said on Friday it would suspend services between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg in Russia on Monday, closing the rail link between Russia and the European Union.
VR, the operator, said it had been told by the Finnish state it was no longer appropriate to run the service, known as the Allegro, in light of sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
“So we are suspending traffic for the time being,” Topi Simola, VR’s head of passenger traffic, said in a statement.
Russian Railways said in a short statement they were aware of the Finnish decision due to sanctions.
Trains from Russia to Finland’s capital Helsinki have been packed with Russians in recent weeks as some used it to leave the country urgently and mutual airspace closures cut off flight connections between Russia and the EU.
The border between Finland and Russia remains open for crossings by private car.
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Russia cancelled its passenger train routes to EU countries in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, including the Leo Tolstoy, a Russian train which used to go from Moscow to Helsinki via Saint Petersburg.
Finland’s Allegro train was one of the last rail connections between Russia and the EU.
Russian trains still shuttle back and forth via Lithuania between Moscow and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. But since Feb. 28, they have not allowed Russian passengers to board or alight in Lithuania.
Tytti Tuppurainen, Finland’s minister in charge of state holdings, told Reuters that one reason for maintaining the Allegro train service until now had been to allow Finns in Russia to return to home.
“Now it is evident that the situation has changed for the Allegro and the continuation of Allegro traffic is no longer appropriate from the point of view of the state owner,” she wrote in an emailed statement.