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Finland considers reopening border with Russia after immigrant row

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Finland hopes to ease restrictions on its eastern border with Russia after the traffic of migrants stopped following Helsinki’s complete closure of the frontier last week, Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said.

“We are closely following the situation, how it evolves,” Valtonen told POLITICO in an interview on Friday. “And now that it has been peaceful, we hope that we can, if not go directly to normal … at least open a few border crossings if possible.”

Finland last week closed its entire eastern border with Russia for two weeks amid accusations that Moscow was encouraging asylum seekers to travel across its frontier into the EU and NATO country.

Valtonen said Finland has evidence that Russian authorities have been actively helping people reach the border, by oganizing group transports and providing people with equipment, for example, and recruiting people. “This is an active measure of instrumentalizing third-country citizens, which Finland cannot accept,” she said.

Valtonen also said recent reports that Russia planned to disrupt Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO are “very disturbing” because they show that “Russia has no respect for the sovereignty of nations.”

“When we sent in the membership application a year and a half ago to join NATO, we were prepared to tackle with all sorts of Russian influence. So apparently this threat has not gone away,” the minister said.

Earlier this week, Finnish broadcaster Yle reported that Russian intelligence services had planned to organize violent demonstrations to disrupt Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO, including protests with the aim of causing rifts between Turkey and the EU. The report is based on a Russian intelligence memo which was originally leaked to the investigative website The Dossier Center, according to Yle.

The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) confirmed to Yle and POLITICO that it was aware of Russia’s plans to organize or encourage demonstrations in Finland, but did not give further comments. Finland joined the Western defense alliance in the spring; Sweden said last week that Turkey has promised it will ratify Stockholm’s bid “within weeks.”

Tensions between Helsinki and Moscow have escalated since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, prompting Finland to join the NATO military alliance.

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