In response to what is perceived as an orchestrated effort by Russia to exert influence, the Finnish government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, has decided to close its entire eastern border. This decision includes the closure of the last open crossing in the far north of Lapland towards Murmansk, which is approximately 250 km from the border. The closure will take effect overnight from Wednesday to Thursday and will remain in place for two weeks.
Finland's Border Closure: A Matter of National Security
Finland's announcement comes after weeks of tension over asylum seekers, whom Helsinki has labelled as part of a "hybrid operation" by Moscow. The Finnish intelligence services have suggested that Russia is aiding asylum seekers in reaching the Finnish border. As a result, Finland has deemed this issue as a matter of national security. Legal advice found the closure of the border, under the current circumstances, both proportionate and justified.
European Union's Border Agency Steps In
The European Union's border agency has announced that it will send reinforcements to Finland to help police its borders. This includes dozens of officers and equipment. The objective is to support Finland in managing the increasing effort to restrict crossings from Russia, a push that intensified following the invasion of Ukraine last year and Finland's ascension to NATO earlier this year.
Finnish Government's Stance
The Finnish government accuses Moscow of ushering migrants towards the Finnish border, terming it 'hybrid warfare' on the Kremlin's part. Helsinki believes that Moscow is funnelling asylum seekers to the border in retaliation for Finland's decision to join NATO. This move, they argue, is Russia's influence activity, which they do not accept.
The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) assessed that Russia's attempts to create a migration crisis at the Finnish border have been unsuccessful due to Helsinki's prompt response. The ISW highlighted that the Finnish Prime Minister has acknowledged the closure of all eastern border crossings and indicated his government's readiness to take further action in response to the crisis, which is believed to be artificially instigated by Russia.
The Finnish government's decision to close the entire eastern border with Russia is seen as a necessary and proportionate measure to put an end to this phenomenon and to limit the serious consequences that it has for national security and public order. With over 800 individuals having crossed the Finnish border in recent weeks from third countries via Russia, the influx of illegal immigrants is considered a hybrid operation by Finnish authorities.