Alessandro Rampazzo/AFP/Getty Images
Customs officials seen in Valimaa, Finland, on the border with Russia, in September 2022.
Finland will close the last checkpoint on its border with Russia on Thursday, completely sealing off Russia’s eastern border with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nation for two weeks.
“Russia is enabling people to be turned into tools and guiding them to the Finnish border even in harsh winter conditions,” Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orupo said in a statement. Finland is determined to put an end to this phenomenon. ”
Finland’s Ministry of Interior announced in a press release on Tuesday that the last checkpoint will close at midnight on November 30th and the eastern border will remain closed until December 13th.
The move comes as Helsinki steps up efforts to restrict entry from Russia following last year’s invasion of Ukraine and Finland’s entry into NATO earlier this year.
Finland’s Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said in a press release that it was necessary to close the entire eastern border with Russia, saying the decision was taken to “protect Finland’s national security from Russian hybrid operations.” added.
“Finland’s goal is to eliminate illegal immigration from Russia,” the Finnish Border Guard said in a social media post.
“Finland is responsible for its own border security and the Finnish Border Guard is ready to swiftly implement the government’s new decisions,” the Border Guard added.
Finland shares a 1,330-mile-long border with Russia. The border became one of the few entry points for Russians after many Western countries closed their airspace and borders to Russian aircraft in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said on Tuesday that Finland’s decision to close all border crossings with Russia will harm the Finnish people, calling it also “irrational.”
“They have closed the borders. How should we respond? The Finnish people will suffer,” Glushko said on the sidelines of the Primakov Reading Forum in Moscow.
“We can comment on some rational decisions and then look for some kind of logic. But sometimes the decisions are just irrational,” he said. , added that only about 700 migrants attempted to cross the Russian-Finnish border during this period.
The Finnish government announced on November 16 that it will temporarily close four checkpoints along its border with Russia from this week until February 2024 to prevent illegal border crossings.
Finland’s Ministry of Interior said in a press release on Tuesday that despite the restrictions, entry into Finland from the eastern border continues.
“Since early August, approximately 1,000 third-country nationals have entered Finland without a visa via the eastern border crossing. Most of them have applied for asylum in Finland,” the ministry said. Stated.
“In these very exceptional circumstances, the short-term, complete closure of the eastern border is a necessary and appropriate measure to put an end to this phenomenon and limit its serious impact on national security and public order,” the ministry said. It is,” he added. in a press release on Tuesday.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday accused Russia of using migrants as a “tool” to create “pressure” along its border with Finland.
“We’ve seen them use energy, use cyberattacks, use different kinds of covert operations to try to undermine our democracy. Russia. “The fact that we are using migration as a tool is another example of an attempt to put pressure on neighboring countries,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference in Brussels.
Stoltenberg said NATO had not received a request from Finland for help with border security, adding that the issue itself was “confident that Finland can handle it.”
He welcomed the move by the European Union border agency Frontex to deploy 50 security guards along the Finnish border.
Helsinki closed its borders at the end of September 2022, when traffic across the border intensified as Russians sought to escape President Vladimir Putin’s “partial mobilization” of hundreds of thousands of his citizens for war. More than 8,500 Russians crossed the border in one day alone.
Earlier this year, the Finnish Border Guard also began a pilot phase of constructing the Eastern Border Barrier Fence along several key parts of the border.