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Finland partially reopens border with Russia

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Finland said on Tuesday it would reopen two border crossings with Russia and partially reverse a decision to close the border following a dispute over rising numbers of migrants in the region.

Finland has gradually closed all land routes with Russia in recent weeks, accusing Russia of facilitating a potentially destabilizing influx of migrants. Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said on Tuesday that his government would monitor the impact of the partial reopening and assess whether Russia had halted what he called “an operation.”

“If we don’t reduce regulations, we won’t be able to test whether positive change will occur,” Olpo said at a press conference. But he added that if Russia continues to collect migrants in the region, the checkpoint will be closed again.

After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, relations between Moscow and Helsinki deteriorated significantly, and Finland joined NATO. Finnish authorities said Russia was encouraging migrants to cross the border with the aim of undermining Finland’s national security and public order.

Finnish authorities claim that the much higher number of migrants seeking asylum will strain immigration services and increase the risk of “radicalized” people entering the country.

About 900 migrants, mainly from Africa and Asia, crossed the 830-mile border between Finland and Russia to apply for asylum in Finland in November, according to Finnish authorities, a notable increase compared to the previous month. .

Russia says accusations that it helped migrants reach the border are “baseless”. According to Russian News Agency, since Finland began closing its borders, Russian authorities have told reporters that some asylum seekers who had the right to stay in Russia were returned to St. Petersburg, while others who were in the country illegally were returned to St. Petersburg. announced that they had been fined and deported. Interfax.

Finland began closing its border crossings in mid-November. The last open intersection, the Raja Giuseppi intersection in northern Lapland, was closed on November 30.

Only the Vainikkala railway crossing in southeastern Finland was open to commercial land traffic. According to the Finnish Border Guard, air and water routes remained open, including for asylum seekers.

Tuesday’s announcement about the reopening of two intersections mentioned the Valimaa and Nyilala intersections in southern Finland.

Last month, Estonia’s Foreign Minister Margus Tsakna said his country was prepared to close its border with Russia over similar complaints.

“What is happening on the Finnish border is nothing short of a blatant hybrid attack,” Tsakuna told a meeting of the Nordic and Baltic foreign ministers in Brussels. He said the Russian government’s actions were “aimed at sowing fear and instability.”

Estonia also advised its citizens to refrain from traveling to Russia in case Estonian authorities decide to close border crossings.

Frontex, the European Union’s border authority, has sent personnel to strengthen border security in member state Finland. The agency said the security of Finland’s eastern borders was a “concern for all of Europe”.

In the past, Poland and the Baltic states have also accused Belarus of using migration as a political weapon.

According to a poll by Helsingin Sanomat, one of Finland’s main newspapers, public opinion in Finland is largely in favor of closing the border, with 75 percent of the population supporting it.

Opinion polls showed that left-wing opposition parties voiced criticism over concerns about the impact on asylum seekers, but only 10% opposed the move.

Lee Anderson, leader of the opposition Left Alliance, said border closures had reduced the chances of refugees seeking international protection, a human right established by the Geneva Conventions, to which Finland is a party.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö said in an interview with Finnish public broadcaster YLE this month that the Geneva Convention on Refugees refers to a “completely different situation than what we are witnessing.” Because in this case Russia was taking advantage of immigrants. To “confuse and divide.”

Ivan Necheplenko Contributed reporting from Tbilisi, Georgia.

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