EU backs Finland as it blocks border with Russia
To stem the flow of asylum seekers, Finland will place barriers at four of its eight border crossings with Russia. According to officials, Moscow has been orchestrating an increase in migrants.
According to the Finnish Border Guard, barriers will be installed at the Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra, and Niirala crossings in southeastern Finland at midnight (22:00 GMT).
Finland’s Border Guard reports about 300 asylum seekers arriving this week, mainly from Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria. By midday on Friday alone, nearly 100 people had entered Finland from Russia. An EU external border of 1,340 km (833 miles) separates Finland from Russia.
As of Wednesday, Finnish president Sauli Niinistö vowed to take “very clear action” regarding the arrivals, which have steadily grown along the border in south-east Finland.
Russian border guards usually stop people without valid EU visas as they try to cross the border into Finland, he said. In retaliation for Helsinki’s plans to sign a defense cooperation agreement with Washington, Niinistö said on Wednesday that Russia had begun guiding asylum seekers toward Finnish crossing points.
“I don’t see the border traffic ending in any other way than with very clear Finnish action,” said Niinistö at a press conference in Bonn.
He said Finland should expect a “certain malice” from Russia after joining NATO, referring to previous comments.
“Yes, we are now constantly being reminded every day that Finland joined NATO. I think that this time, maybe it was the DCA [defense cooperation agreement] that triggered the situation,” he said.
He supports government plans for restricting border traffic, adding: “Yes, I now understand that it won’t end on its own.”
The Helsinki government has accused Moscow of encouraging undocumented migrants to cross over. Russia has denied the claim.
A spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry dismissed Niinistö’s statement as “absolutely groundless.” The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said Moscow deeply regretted Finland’s decision to distance itself from previously good bilateral relations.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, supported Finland’s action.
“Russia’s instrumentalization of migrants is shameful. I fully support the measures taken by Finland,” von der Leyen wrote on X.
From Saturday, asylum seekers arriving via Russia can submit their applications only at the Salla and Vartius border crossings. .
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By 2026, Finland plans to complete a 200km (124-mile) fence across its border.