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Finland extends Russia border closure until April 14 saying Moscow hasn't stopped sending migrants

Finland's government says that it will extend the closure of the country's border with Russia until April 14

Via AP news wire
Thursday 08 February 2024 13:48 GMT
Finland Russia Borders
Finland Russia Borders (Lehtikuva)

Finland's government said Thursday that it would extend the closure of its long border with Russia for another two months until April 14, because it sees no signs that Moscow was stopping its “hybrid operation” of funneling migrants toward the frontier with the Nordic nation.

Finland closed the 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) land border late last year after about 1,300 migrants without proper documentation or visas had arrived across the frontier since September — an unusually high number, just months after Finland joined the NATO alliance.

Most of the migrants hail from the Middle East and Africa. The vast majority of them have sought asylum in Finland, a nation of 5.6 million people.

The government said in Thursday’s statement that “instrumentalized migration” from Russia poses “a serious threat to Finland’s national security and public order.”

Based on the information provided by the border, security and other authorities to the Cabinet, “it is likely that instrumentalized migration would resume if border crossing points were opened at the eastern border,” the government said.

“We have seen no signs that Russia is changing its behavior. On the contrary, the information we have received confirms our assessment that Russia is continuing its hybrid operation,” Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said. “We have reason to believe that this situation will continue for some time.”

According to Rantanen, there are “hundreds, if not thousands, of migrants” who are currently staying close to the border on the Russian side and waiting for the chance to cross into Finland.

Finland has earlier accused Russia of deliberately ushering the migrants to its normally heavily controlled border facing the Nordic country. The Kremlin has denied the allegation, and says it regrets the Finnish border closures.

All eight Finland-Russia border crossing points for people have been closed since Dec. 15. The southeastern rail checkpoint for cargo trains in Vainikkala remains open for now.

In January, the government agreed to keep the crossing points closed until Feb. 11.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s government originally chose to close the border with Russia in November, citing security concerns and Moscow’s “hybrid warfare.” It later opened two selected checkpoints in eastern and northern Finland on a trial basis, but the migrant influx continued.

Finland acts as the European Union’s external border in the north and makes up a significant part of NATO’s northeastern flank.

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Follow AP’s coverage of global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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