At least 27,000 Russian tourists are stranded abroad after tour operator Labirint suspended its activity.
A company statement blamed the move on the deterioration in the rouble exchange rate and the “negative political and economic situation”.
There are signs that EU-US sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis are hurting the wider economy, including Western investment in Russia.
A Russian tycoon says his executive jet is grounded because of US sanctions.
At least 27,000 Russian tourists are stranded abroad after tour operator Labirint suspended its activity (photo AFP)
Billionaire businessman Gennady Timchenko – close to President Vladimir Putin – told Russia’s ITAR-TASS news agency that Gulfstream was no longer servicing his jet and the pilots were not allowed to use its navigation equipment.
He is reckoned to have a fortune of $14.4 billion, owning big stakes in gas and infrastructure firms. He is among dozens of Russians hit by sanctions over the Ukraine conflict.
An agency assisting Russian tourists, Turpomoshch (Tour Help), said in a statement it is now trying to book Russians onto return flights in various countries, including Bulgaria, Egypt and Tunisia.
Labirint’s sudden failure on Saturday left some 27,000 Russian tourists without return tickets, Turpomoshch said.
Anxious Labirint customers are bombarding Turpomoshch with calls at a rate of five per minute, the agency says, adding that “our managers are working flat-out” to help them.
Another reason Labirint gave for its move was the Russian state’s advice that military or security service officials should not go abroad.
Last month another Russian tour operator, Neva, also went bust.
Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake may be forced to cancel their sell-out shows in Finland as a result of US sanctions against Russia.
Helsinki’s Hartwall venue is owned by Gennady Timchenko and brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg.
All three appear on the US sanctions list as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle”.
Helsinki’s Hartwall venue is due to host Justin Timberlake in May and Miley Cyrus in June.
Other acts due to appear this summer include Robbie Williams, Peter Gabriel, Aerosmith and Elton John.
Gennady Timchenko is a co-founder of Russian oil trader Gunvor and was estimated by Forbes magazine to be worth $15.3 billion before the sanctions came into force last month.
Arkady and Boris Rotenberg are the billionaire co-owners of SMP Bank and childhood friends of President Vladimir Putin.
Helsinki’s Hartwall venue is due to host Miley Cyrus in June
The three men are among a list of 27 individuals named by the US as being closely tied to President Vladimir Putin personally or politically.
Together, the three own events management company Arena Events Oy, which bought the Helsinki Hartwall Arena last year, as well as taking a minority stake in the local hockey club, Jokerit.
Arena Events Oy is managed by Boris Rotenberg’s son Roman.
Under the US sanctions no American citizen or business can provide Gennady Timchenko or the Rotenberg brothers with “economic resources”, effectively preventing business from being conducted with them.
But the concerts’ US ticket promoter, Live Nation, could apply to the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), part of the Treasury Department, for a license to authorize the transaction.
Live Nation said it was currently reviewing its portfolio and would work to ensure the US sanctions were upheld.
Tom Stocker, partner at law firm Pinsent Mason, said much depended on whether any money was still to be paid to the venue.
If not, Tom Stocker, the concerts could go ahead as planned. But if money was still owed to the venue it was possible the concerts could be cancelled.
“OFAC will need to provide a license to authorize the transaction and will have to take into account that the show forms part of a pre-existing agreement,” he said.
“But it has quite a wide discretion to grant licenses. If this was Europe then a license would most likely not be granted.
“It is a real area of ambiguity. The company that owns the venue is not on the sanctions list, but Timchenko is.
“The question is whether you are giving Timchenko economic resources by allowing the concerts to go ahead.”
Tom Stocker added there was potential for the concerts not to go ahead, as US companies would be likely to take a “cautious approach” for fear of falling foul of the current sanctions.
He said British artists like Robbie Williams, Elton John and Peter Gabriel, who were all likely to have US management, might find they were unable to discuss details of their forthcoming concerts at the Finnish venue while they were on US soil.
“The individuals themselves can’t do anything in furtherance of the concerts while on US soil,” Tom Stocker said.
“They can’t send emails to their US management while on American soil, they can’t discuss arrangements for the concert.”
As yet there is no evidence that any concerts at the venue have been cancelled. The Hartwall venue’s website shows all the concerts going ahead as planned.