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Media: 11 Iranian migrants arrested while trying to enter Finland from Russia

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 12, 2024 5:08 PM 2 min read
Patrol car of the Finnish border guard at the closed Vaalimaa border checkpoint between Finland and Russia on Dec. 15, 2023. (Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva / AFP via Getty Images)
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Finland's Border Guard arrested 11 Iranian men after they illegally crossed over the eastern border with Russia, the Finnish media outlet YLE reported on Jan. 12.

Finland fully closed its border with Russia in late November to prevent an influx of migrants from entering the country from Russia. In November alone, around 900 asylum seekers from countries like Kenya, Somalia, and Yemen entered Finland from Russia, which Helsinki has accused Moscow of orchestrating as retribution for Finland's NATO accession.

Finnish authorities announced on Jan. 11 that the border closures would be extended until at least Feb. 11.

The border guards arrested the 11 Iranian men in Lappeenranta, a city on the Finnish-Russian border, some 49 kilometers from the Russian city of Vyborg. The migrants applied for asylum after their capture.

Heikki Ahtiainen, a commander in the Southeastern Finland Border Guard, told YLE that a preliminary investigation revealed that the men were supported by someone on the Russian side, but they did not have any information on their identity.

Ahtiainen did not say whether he believed Russian authorities had any involvement in helping the men cross.

He added that the Russian border guard was cooperating on an investigation into the matter.

Finnish authorities have previously accused Russia of weaponizing the asylum seekers on the border, characterizing the surge of migrants as a"hybrid operation against Finland."

Russia's alleged use of migrants to sow chaos on its border with Finland draws parallels to a similar strategy used by Belarus, which has been facilitating flows of third-country migrants to the Baltic countries and Poland since 2021.

Finland has sought to learn from Poland's experience dealing with border security issues and the weaponization of migrants.

Media: Russia planned interference campaigns to disrupt NATO accession of Finland, Sweden
In particular, Russia tried to inflame tensions that erupted after a series of public Quran burnings in Sweden, which resulted in protests breaking out around the Muslim world.

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