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Media: Finland to extend border closure with Russia

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 6, 2024 10:57 AM 2 min read
An asylum seeker sits on the ground near the Nuijamaa border crossing between Finland and Russia on Nov. 17, 2023, after the Finnish government announced plans to close its eastern border. (Alessandro Rampazzo/AFP via Getty Images)
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The Finnish government will keep its eastern border with Russia closed until at least Feb. 11, the Finnish media outlet Ilta Sanomat reported on Feb. 6, citing sources in the government.

Finland fully closed its border with Russia in late November 2023 to prevent an influx of migrants from entering the country via Russia. In November alone, around 900 asylum seekers from countries like Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen entered Finland from Russia.

Finnish authorities suspected the asylum seekers were being pushed to the border by Russia in what Helsinki labeled a "hybrid operation against Finland."

When Helsinki initially decided to reopen two crossing points with Russia on Dec. 14, 2023, it quickly reversed the decision the following day.

According to Interior Minister Mari Rantanen, the situation at the Finnish border has remained unchanged since December, with migrants reportedly waiting on Russia's side of the border to enter Finland. Finnish authorities decided in January to keep the border closed for another month.

A new decision on the status of the border is expected on Feb. 8, but sources in the government told Ilta Sanomat that the situation remains the same and that the government is looking for a more sustainable solution beyond simply temporarily extending the closure again.

Marko Saareks, the deputy head of Finland's Border Guard, said that perhaps thousands of migrants were waiting in Russia to try to cross into Finland. Saareks added that the situation may continue in its current state until the snow melts in spring, at which point the pace of attempted crossings will likely increase.

Rantanen has said repeatedly that legislation to streamline the process of seeking asylum will not address the problem on its own.

"This is a sign that the Russian authorities are continuing their hybrid operation against Finland. This is something that Finland will not tolerate," Rantanen said after Finland decided to close the border again in December 2023.

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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