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Finland to close all but one border crossing with Russia

by Martin Fornusek November 22, 2023 9:44 PM 2 min read
Vehicles of the Finnish Defence Forces at the Vartius border station in Kuhmo, Finland, on Nov. 19, 2023. (Miska Puumala/Lehtikuva/ AFP via Getty Images)
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Finland will close all but the northernmost crossing on its border with Russia due to a rising number of asylum seekers, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said on Nov. 22, Reuters reported.

The measure, which is to take effect on Nov. 24, follows Helsinki's accusations that Russia is orchestrating the influx of migrants as retribution for Finland's entry into NATO.

Finnish media initially reported on Nov. 20 that Helsinki plans to close all four still open crossings with Russia. However, Orpo clarified that the Raja-Jooseppi checkpoint would remain open.

"Raja-Jooseppi is the northernmost (border crossing), and it requires a real effort to get there," the prime minister said.

Lying in Finland's northern reaches, Raja-Jooseppi is around 190 kilometers southwest of Russia's Murmansk and roughly 160 kilometers south of the Barents Sea.

The Finnish Border Guard recorded a spike of asylum seekers arriving at the country's eastern border on Nov. 12. These migrants are foreigners who pass through Russia from third countries, such as Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Somalia.

Some 600 migrants without proper documentation arrived in the country in November compared to a few dozen in the previous months.

Finnish media also reported in September that Russia has been building up its military bases along the border with Finland.

Helsinki has already reacted by the closure of some of its nine border crossings with Russia. The country's military also plans to construct fences at the Vartius crossing station.

Reports of Moscow-orchestrated migrant crisis echo the strategy used by Belarus against its NATO neighbors. Minsk has been facilitating flows of third-country migrants to the Baltic countries and Poland since 2021.

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