Finland had previously closed all crossings amid an influx of migrants that Helsinki claimed was a “hybrid attack” by Moscow
Finland will reopen two of its eight border crossings with Russia, the government in Helsinki announced on Tuesday. The Nordic nation had previously shut down the entire border, citing a surge in asylum seekers that it claimed had been orchestrated by Moscow.
The southeastern Vaalimaa and Niirala crossings will resume operations, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told journalists. The remaining six border stations will remain closed.
Interior Minister Mari Rantanen added that both reopenings are set for Thursday, and that the decision is expected to remain in force until January 14. If the number of asylum seekers increases again, the border stations could be closed earlier, she warned.
Helsinki gradually shut down its border crossings with Russia last month, with the last one closing on November 28. Finland cited an increase in the number of migrants from third nations seeking to cross into its territory from Russia as the reason for the move. It repeatedly accused Moscow of being behind the development, although the Kremlin rejected the claims as “completely baseless.”
On Tuesday, Rantanen maintained that there was “a state actor behind the new arrivals,” adding that the situation at the border was not just about the “numbers.” The minister further claimed that the surge in new arrivals was a “hybrid operation” aimed at “destabilizing our society,” which Helsinki must resist. The authorities would monitor developments 24 hours a day, particularly during the Christmas holidays, she added.
Helsinki is the newest NATO member, having abandoned its longstanding policy of neutrality soon after Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine last year. Moscow has said Finland does not pose a direct threat, but has vowed to take “retaliatory measures” against any actions that compromise national security.
Amid the crisis, Poland, which also borders Russia, said it had offered to deploy a team of “military advisers” to the Nordic nation to provide “on-site knowledge on border security, including in an operational sense.” Finland later denied any knowledge of Warsaw’s offer, while the Kremlin condemned it as an “an absolutely unprovoked, unjustified concentration of military units on the Russian border.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the Council of Europe criticized Helsinki’s decision to close its border with Russia, pointing to concerns about effective access to legal entry for asylum seekers and “considerable risks for the health and life” of migrants.
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