In recent news, Finnish Interior Minister Mari Rantanen announced on Tuesday that Finland is considering taking the bold step of closing its border checkpoints with Russia. This decision comes amid concerns about illegal immigrants from third countries attempting to cross over. Rantanen expressed her intention to prepare a proposal for the government, should the situation escalate to a point where drastic measures need to be implemented to prevent a serious threat to public order, national security, or public health.
The Minister pointed out that the final decision to close the border checkpoints also hinges upon the actions of Russia. She has claimed that there has been a notable shift in Russia’s border policy, leading to an influx of illegal migrants heading towards Finland. While she refrained from speculating on what might be motivating Russia’s alleged behavior, Rantanen suggested that Helsinki’s activities may have, in some way, provoked Moscow. She further disclosed that efforts to engage in dialogue with Moscow have been largely ineffective, fostering a sense of urgency and concern within Finnish authorities.
Helsinki’s decision to clamp down on border measures includes prohibiting people from crossing into Finland by bicycle from Russia. It is worth noting that Moscow has yet to formally respond to the allegations made by Finland. According to Finnish authorities, approximately 60 individuals, primarily from countries such as Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen, arrived at the country’s eastern border on Monday and Tuesday.
Addressing the issue at hand, Rantanen emphasized that Finland’s primary objective is not merely to address the number of migrants but to avert a crisis of the magnitude witnessed back in 2015, during the migrant crisis that reverberated across the EU. The strained relationship between Russia and Finland has been further exacerbated since the eruption of the Ukraine conflict in 2022, coupled with Helsinki’s decision to forego decades-long neutrality in favor of joining NATO.
Moreover, Finland has thrown its weight behind the imposition of EU sanctions on Russia. In September, it took additional steps by adhering to the bloc’s directives on import restrictions, effectively banning the entry of most cars with Russian license plates into the country. Furthermore, it is demanding that any such vehicles already present within its territory be removed by March 2024.
Significantly, Moscow’s embassy in Helsinki has issued a cautionary statement, informing the public about Finland’s decision to indefinitely bar individuals from crossing the border with Russia on bicycles. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has condemned the recent recommendations by the EU, denouncing them as “simply racism.” While Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen conceded that Western sanctions have adverse effects on ordinary citizens, she maintained that Helsinki had no alternative but to enforce these measures.
In light of the complex geopolitical dynamics and escalating tensions between Finland and Russia, the potential closure of the border checkpoints marks a consequential development that underscores the profound ramifications of the evolving situation. As these events continue to unfold, all eyes remain on the diplomatic exchanges and actions between the two countries, as well as the broader implications for regional and international relations.