FInland closed the only remaining checkpoint on the border with Russia late on Wednesday after 900 asylum seekers crossed into Finland from Russia this month.
It is not expected that they will be able to reopen for at least two more weeks. Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said he believed some of the asylum seekers were intentionally sent there by the Russian government.
“Russia is enabling the instrumentalization of people and guiding them to the Finnish border in harsh winter conditions. Finland is determined to put an end to this phenomenon,” Prime Minister Olpo said in a government press release on Tuesday. mentioned in.
Russia did not immediately react to Finland’s decision, but has denied encouraging asylum seekers to enter Finland. The Finnish government says most asylum seekers come from Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan without proper documentation.
Finland’s Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen told The Associated Press last week: “Unlike in the past, Russian border authorities are not only allowing people without proper documentation to enter the Finnish border; they are also preventing people from entering the border area. “We now have evidence that we are actively supporting them.” .
Last week, Finland closed seven of eight checkpoints along the 830-mile Russia-Finland border. Until Wednesday’s closure, the northern Raja Giuseppi crossing was the only checkpoint still open.
Relations between Russia and Finland have been strained since the beginning of the war with Ukraine. Finland announced its membership in NATO in May 2022, and became a full member state in April 2023. This caused a protest from the Russian government. The Russian government views each new NATO member on its borders as a threat to its national security.
When Finland joined, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “Helsinki’s military non-alignment policy has long served Finland’s national interests and has been an important element of confidence-building in the Baltic region and across continental Europe.” Stated.
“This is now a thing of the past. Finland has become one of the few members of an undecided alliance and has lost a special voice in international affairs. We are confident that history will judge this hasty step.” the statement said. he continued.
This is not the first time Western governments have accused Russia and its allies of encouraging asylum seekers to migrate as part of war tactics. Poland, Lithuania and Latvia all say they are facing a large influx of asylum seekers at their borders with Belarus after the EU imposed sanctions on the country over its controversial 2020 election results. Says.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko acknowledged that the decision to send asylum seekers was directly linked to the EU’s decision to impose sanctions.
“(Sanctions) could have the opposite effect,” he said at a press conference in August 2021, “because the reality of today’s events on the borders of Belarus and Poland, Belarus and Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, Belarus and Latvia It shows,” he said.