Russia has rejected allegations that Finland is smuggling undocumented immigrants across the border in an attempt to destabilize the neighboring country, which has been a NATO member since April. “We do not accept such accusations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Moscow on Monday. “Border crossings are used by those who have the right to do so,” he added. Finland’s claims were described as “excessive”.
Following the dispute, the Moscow Foreign Ministry summoned the Finnish ambassador. The ministry said on Monday that the closure of border crossings was clearly provocative and would further strain already tense relations.
Finland closed half of its border crossings with Russia on Saturday after authorities noted a significant increase in the number of migrants arriving from the Middle East and Africa, especially Iraq, Yemen and Somalia, in recent months.
According to Finnish media, the remaining four crossing points may be closed this week. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko warned on Monday that such a decision “would be contrary to Finland’s interests.” Peskov accused Helsinki of adopting a “clear anti-Russian stance”.
Russia and Finland share a 1,340 kilometer land border. Relations between the countries have deteriorated significantly since the start of the Ukrainian war in February 2022. Finland joined NATO in April after decades of alliance neutrality. The leadership in Moscow condemned it as “an attack on Russia’s security.”
So far, Finnish borders have been secured primarily by lightweight wooden fences aimed at keeping animals in the country. The country of 5.5 million is currently building a 200-kilometer-long fence along part of the Finland-Russia border. It is planned to be completed in 2026.
Western countries have previously accused Russia’s close ally Belarus of deporting tens of thousands of illegal immigrants across the border into Poland and Lithuania in retaliation for EU sanctions following a crackdown on protests surrounding the fraudulent 2021 presidential election.
Finnish border guards announced on Monday that additional barriers will be installed at the Vartius crossing to ensure security. 16 people applied for asylum in Vartius on Sunday and 67 people applied for asylum on Saturday. But on Sunday border guards reported there were no more refugees from southeastern Finland.
On Saturday, Finland closed the border in St. Petersburg after hundreds of people crossed the border without valid documents in previous weeks. Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala border gates, which are conveniently located for those coming from St. Petersburg, have been closed. Asylum applications can currently only be made in Vartius, hundreds of kilometers away, and Salla, further north.
Refugees have also been coming to Vartius since last week; for the first time this year, but now every day, according to border guards. Jouko Kinnunen, head of the Vartius border crossing point, told STT news agency that Russian authorities were actively working to bring refugees across the border. “They are pushing people to the border and closing the border gates behind them,” he said. In his impression, some of the population did not want to cross the border and even resisted. Also, not everyone applied for asylum.