Purra: Finland ready to close entire border with Russia

Finland announced plans to close four border crossing points in the southeast from midnight on Friday, but four more will remain open further north along the country’s frontier with Russia.

Finland’s government is prepared to take further action if Thursday’s decision to close four crossing points on the border with Russia does not help to calm the situation on the eastern frontier, according to Finance Minister and Deputy PM Riikka Purra (Finns).

“We have a very low threshold to take the next step, which is to close the entire eastern border and concentrate asylum seeking away from the eastern border,” Purra said during an appearance on Yle TV1’s A-Talk current affairs show on Thursday evening.

The government announced plans on Thursday to close the Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala border crossing points in the southeast of the country from midnight on Friday. Another four crossing points, located further north along Finland’s 1,300km border with Russia, will remain open — at least for the time being.

The map shows the border points that will be closed: Niirala, Imatra, Nuijamaa and Vaalimaa.

The four border checkpoints in the southeast of Finland will close from midnight on Friday. Image: Laura Merikalla / Yle and Nanna Särkkä / Yle

The move to close the border points was a response to suspicions that Russian officials allowed undocumented asylum seekers to arrive at the Finnish border in growing numbers over recent days.

Eyewitnesses and the Finnish Border Guard said on Thursday that Russian border authorities appeared to have stopped allowing asylum seekers to cross. However, another 36 people without the necessary papers arrived at the border on Thursday, Yle understands.

This brought the number of undocumented arrivals to about 300 since September, according to figures provided by the Finnish Border Guard, the majority of them having arrived at the four checkpoints that are being shut down.

Focus shifts north

With the closure of the four crossing points in the southeast of the country, focus will turn to the four other checkpoints further north.

Defence Minister Antti Häkkänen (NCP) told A-Talk on Thursday that the government’s main aim is to prevent Russia from using asylum seekers as weapons of ‘hybrid warfare’.

“We know what has happened in other countries that share a border with Russia, when they [Russia] started diverting large numbers of people there [to the border]. The volumes of migratory flows can be significant and can become a long-term problem if there is no clear policy from the beginning,” Häkkänen said.

He added that the Finnish Border Guard is prepared to use physical force to prevent people from trying to illegally enter Finland through the four closed border points, but did not wish to provide any details about what these measures might include.

“We will see if the need arises,” he said.

Russia “preparing countermeasures”, foreign ministry says

Russia is aware of Finland’s decision to close the border checkpoints, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Marija Zaharova said on Thursday, and is preparing countermeasures.

She added that several Russian ministries are involved in planning the response, saying that Finland’s decision had created “new dividing lines” in Europe, according to a report by Russian news agency Tass.

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