The Government of Finland decided this Thursday to close four of the nine border crossings it has on the 1,340 kilometer border with Russia, the longest of a NATO country with the Eurasian country. The measure will last for three months.
With this decision, announced by the Finnish Prime Minister, Petteri Orpo, Helsinki aims to stop the sudden increase in asylum requests that have occurred in recent days.
The border crossings of Vaalimaa (Torfiánovka, on the Russian side), Nuiyamaa (Brusníchnoye), Imatra (Svetogorsk) and Niirala (Viartsilia) will remain closed already on the night of Friday 17 to Saturday 18 November, and will remain so until at least the next February 18, 2024, said Finnish Interior Minister Mari Rantanen.
Helsinki attributes this spike in immigrant arrivals to the Russian authorities. The country's president, Sauli Niinistö, said Wednesday that he believes Russia is guiding asylum seekers to Finland's border as revenge for Helsinki's rapprochement with the West.
After Russia began its offensive against Ukraine in February 2022, fears increased in Finland and they began to see Russia as a threat. So it decided to abandon its traditional military neutrality and in April 2023 joined NATO. In addition, it plans to sign a defensive cooperation agreement with the United States.
The Russian border guard usually stops anyone trying to arrive in Finland without a valid Schengen visa. "It is clear that the border guards are helping these people and are also escorting or transporting them to the border," Petteri Orpo said Tuesday.
The Kremlin has denied Finland's accusations. "We deeply regret that the Finnish authorities have deliberately chosen the path of distancing themselves from the good character of the relations we had before," their spokesman, Dimitri Peskov, told reporters on Tuesday.
The Finnish authorities explained this week that the number of refugees from Russian territory has increased, and will continue to do so in the near future.
The border guard in the southeast of the Scandinavian country reported that on Wednesday the number of people from Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen and other countries who arrived from Russia and requested asylum in Finland was 46. On Tuesday, 55 arrived, and on Monday, 3. 4.