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Finland to close border crossings with Russia over migrant influx

By AFP - Nov 17,2023 - Last updated at Nov 17,2023

A man stands at the border between Russia and Finland at the Nuijamaa border check point in Lappeenranta, Finland on Wednesday (AFP photo)

HELSINKI — Finland will close four of its eight eastern border crossings with Russia early Saturday, the government said, accusing Moscow of deliberately turning a blind eye to illegal migrants.

The Nordic country, which shares a 1,340 kilometre border with Russia, has seen a surge in illegal crossings since August, primarily nationals from the Middle East and Africa without visas, according to Finland’s border guard.

“Today the government has made the decision to close the Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala border crossing points on the land border between Finland and Russia,” Interior Minister Mari Rantanen told reporters.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo accused Russia of acting deliberately to destabilise Finland in response to its NATO adhesion earlier this year.

“We have been prepared for different kinds of actions, malice, by Russia and therefore this situation doesn’t come as a surprise,” Orpo said.

In April, Moscow warned it would take “countermeasures... in tactical and strategic terms” after branding Finland’s decision to join NATO as an “assault on our security”.

A total of 280 asylum seekers have arrived at the border since September, the border guard said Thursday.

But Rantanen said “the numbers aren’t an important issue”.

“This is not a normal question about asylum politics. This is a case of us having indications and information that people are being machinated into Finland,” Rantanen said.

Markku Hassinen, deputy chief of the Finnish border guard, said the migrant influx “poses a serious threat to national security... burdening the operations of the authorities in the eastern border area”.

The country of 5.5 million people is putting up a 200 kilometre fence on one section of its border with Russia that is due to be completed by 2026.


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