Finland closed its entire 1,340-kilometer border with Russia this week and accused Russia of sending asylum applicants across forest areas in what it described as a hybrid attack and aimed at retaliation for Finland’s decision to join NATO. Russia denies the accusations.
More than nine hundred asylum applicants from countries such as Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen entered Finland in November, according to Finnish border guards. Previously, the rate was less than one per day.
By November 24 Finland had closed all but one of its official border crossings.
On Thursday the Raja-Jooseppi crossing within the Arctic Circle was also closed so that the entire border was closed.
Finnish PM Petteri Orpo said, “This is related to Russian interference, and we cannot accept it. In recent days it has become increasingly clear that this was an organized activity and not an emergency situation.”
Analyst Charly Salonius Pasternak, a Finnish security expert, said, “There are interviews with migrants that say these people were given the option: go to the battlefield in Ukraine or get on a military bus or truck and be taken to the Arctic Circle or further north, and forced to bought a bicycle and attempted to cross the border. So these activities are very structured, and carried out by Russian officials.”
Russia’s move is a response to Finland’s move to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said Salonius Pasternak.
Poland had offered to send military advisors and help Helsinki secure its borders, but this offer was rejected by Finland.
Poland also accused Belarus of sending thousands of asylum applicants to the border in 2021.
Finland said its borders would be closed for at least two weeks.
Estonia this week said it was also ready to close its border with Russia in the event of a flood of migrants and warned its citizens against traveling to Russia. (hour/lt)