Finland has accused Moscow of weaponizing the EU migrant crisis
Finland has deployed soldiers to help reinforce the Vartius crossing on its 1,340-kilometer border with Russia.
Varius is one of the four crossings that remain open following Helsinki’s decision to close the southern entry points amid the accusation that Russia is “funneling” migrants and asylum-seekers from third countries to the Finnish border.
“At the Vartius border station in Kuhmo, temporary barriers are being built in the border area. The Defense Forces support the Border Guard in construction tasks,” the Border Guard said on X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday, adding that the soldiers were not involved in the border control itself.
Border station director Juoki Kinnunen told broadcaster Yle that the military is erecting temporary security barriers at the checkpoint.
On Saturday, Finland closed the southeastern Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala entry points, citing the need to prevent an influx of asylum-seekers. The authorities reported a surge in illegal crossings, including those committed by migrants from Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
Finnish Defense Minister Antti Hakkanen described the closures as “a crystal-clear message to Russia,” which he claimed is using migrants to “accelerate the migrant crisis in Europe and destabilize its unity.” Interior Minister Mari Rantanen, meanwhile, argued that Moscow may be “annoyed by something in Finland’s activities.”
The move to close the border was opposed by some Finish residents, including Russians living in Finland and people with dual citizenship. Several hundred people held a protest in Helsinki on Sunday, denouncing the new “Iron Curtain,” according to Euronews.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova rejected the allegations of weaponizing migration as “completely baseless.”
“Russia has never in its recent history threatened Finland. We did not have a reason for confrontation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this week, arguing that the closure of the border crossings would be “a big mistake” on Helsinki’s part.
Like all other EU member states, Finland imposed sanctions on Russia over its ongoing conflict with Ukraine. Finland had also ditched its traditional non-aligned status and joined NATO in April 2023. Russia, meanwhile, has repeatedly named the continuing expansion of the US-led military bloc eastward as one of the root causes of the current tensions with NATO.