Sunday, March 3, 2024

Finland to close final border with Russia for two weeks

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Finland announced on Tuesday it would temporarily close its only remaining open border with Russia to stem the influx of asylum seekers, accusing Russia of orchestrating it in retaliation for Finland’s decision to join NATO.

Finnish authorities have been on high alert for weeks over an increase in migrants seeking asylum in the country, blaming it as a Kremlin attempt to sow discord. The government has already closed seven of the eight checkpoints along Finland’s vast border with Russia, with only the Raja Giuseppi checkpoint in hard-to-reach northern Lapland above the Arctic Circle open to travelers. is open to the public.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Raja Giuseppi would also shut down for two weeks at midnight Wednesday to allow the government to deal with a situation that allegedly threatens Finland’s national security. Asylum applications are limited to airports and ports.

“The government’s goal is to normalize the extraordinary situation on Finland’s eastern borders as quickly as possible,” he told a news conference. “The activities witnessed on the Finnish border must end.”

Interior Minister Mari Rantanen told a news conference that the message to migrants was: “Don’t come, the borders are closed.”

The conflict began when Belarus, a close ally of Russia, issued short-term visas to thousands of people who arrived on one-way tickets from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, and later joined forces with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European countries. This happened two years after he was brought to the border with Poland. Union members were strongly opposed to immigration from these countries.

Although there was no immediate response from the Russian government to Finland’s move, it underscored how relations between the two neighbors have deteriorated sharply since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.

Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia and has a history of hostilities. The neighboring countries have been at war many times over the centuries, and Finland was ruled by Russia for more than a century before gaining independence in 1917. Finns have strong memories of her 1939 “Winter War” and World War II, when their country fought against the Soviet Union. The Union and the Lost Territories.

After the war, Finland succumbed to the Soviet threat and adopted a form of neutrality, remaining outside the Atlantic Alliance for more than 70 years. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised fears in Finland, a country of about 5.6 million people, that it could become one of Russia’s next targets.

Abandoning their tradition of non-alignment, Finland and Sweden quickly moved to join NATO, a move Russia described as “clearly hostile.” Finnish authorities said they were preparing for an “unpleasant response” from Russia, citing an influx of migrants across the border as one manifestation of this.

Finland has reported that Russia encourages and assists asylum seekers, who border authorities say are primarily from the Middle East and Africa, to reach its borders despite lacking proper documentation. I’m accusing them of being there. According to Finnish national broadcaster Ale, around 900 people arrived in November, a significant increase from the previous month.

But Olupo said at a press conference on Tuesday: “This is not just a matter of numbers, it’s a matter of phenomena.” “This is a matter of a hybrid operation by Russia, and we do not accept it.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria V. Zakharova said the accusations were “baseless” and dismissed them as “misinformation.”

Last week, the European Union’s border and coast guard agency Frontex announced it would deploy 50 police officers and staff, as well as patrol cars and other equipment, to strengthen border security in Finland. He said the security of Finland’s eastern border was a “concern for all of Europe”.

Finland is a member state of the European Union and part of a region of 26 countries in Europe where people can travel freely from country to country without border checks.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday accused Russia of “using migration as a tool” in “an attempt to put pressure on our neighbors and allies.”

“They will not succeed because we stand together and support each other,” he told a press conference in Brussels.

Cassandra Vinograd and Lara Jakes Contributed to the report.

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