16 Nov 2023 16:39

Finland closes 4 checkpoints on border with Russia

HELSINKI. Nov 16 (Interfax) - The Finnish government ordered the closing of the Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Niirala and Imatra checkpoints on the border with Russia in southeastern Finland in the small hours of Saturday.

"The restrictions will remain in effect until February 18, 2024. The government will focus on processing possible applications for international protection at the Salla and Vartius border checkpoints," Finnish Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said at a press conference on Thursday.

The Vartius, Salla, Kuusamo and Raya-Jooseppi checkpoints will stay open on the eastern border.

"The decision has been made on the basis of observation and information from the Border Guard and other services, which clearly indicate that the authorities of a foreign country have played a certain role in the arrival of illegal immigrants in Finland," Rantanen said.

"This is not an emergency, but organized activity," Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said. "The activity of the Russian border authorities has changed," he said.

Finnish mass media have reported a steep increase in the number of asylum seekers trying to cross into Finland from Russia in recent weeks. The Russian authorities changed their behavior and started allowing citizens of third countries to come to the Finnish border without visas, the Yle website said on Thursday.

According to the website, 313 asylum seekers have moved across the eastern border since August, including 80 on Wednesday. In the first half of 2023, 327 people filed for asylum on the eastern border.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto voiced the assumption during a visit to Germany on Wednesday that Russia's conduct may be caused by the bilateral defense cooperation agreement between Finland and the United States.

Earlier on Thursday, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said that Lithuania would consider the economic feasibility of closing checkpoints on the borders with Russia and Belarus.

Lithuania closed the Sumskas (Losha) and Tverecius (Vidzy) checkpoints on the border with Belarus on August 18. The government explained its decision in terms of the geopolitical situation and the need to reduce threats. Four checkpoints, namely Medininkai (Kamenny Log), Lavoriskes (Kotlovka), Raigardas (Privalka) and Salcininkai (Benyakoni), remain open on the border with Belarus.