Finland will close half of its border crossings with Russia this Friday evening. Helsinki is concerned about an attempt to “ destabilization » orchestrated by the Kremlin by exploiting migrants.
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With our special correspondent in Finland,
Less than 200 kilometers from Saint Petersburg, the Nuijamaa border post is preparing to close for three months. Customs officers are installing barriers on the roads. In total, these are 4 border posts out of the 8 shared by Finland and Russia which will close.
At issue: the arrival of around 300 undocumented asylum seekers since September. This is obviously very little compared to what is happening in the Canaries or Lampedusa. But for Finland, it is ten times more than normal.
“ Operation orchestrated by Russia »
In Finland, no one doubts it: everything shows that it is an operation directed by the Kremlin. Annu Lehtinen was able to see this. She is the executive director of the Finnish Refugee Council.
“There has been a change on the eastern border. It’s clear that something is happening. One of the proofs is that when we question asylum seekers, we feel that there is exploitation on the part of Russia. » Clearly, migrants do not arrive there by chance. Usually the FSB, Russia’s state security, does not let illegal migrants through.
Arrivals… by bike!
Another troubling indicator: asylum seekers most often arrive… by bike! Which obviously surprised Captain Jussi Vainikka of the Nuijamaa border guards. “At the moment, cycling is not really popular in Finland. It’s almost minus 10 degrees, too cold for cycling… » We can also see a pile of dozens of bicycles stored at this border post. Bicycles are now prohibited.
For this last opening day, 90 migrants passed through there today. Impossible to meet them. The police keep them apart before sending them to a reception center in the north of the country. Most come from the Middle East and Africa, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and even Syria.
New episode of the “hybrid war” led by Russia
By the winter of 2015, Russia had already let 1,700 asylum seekers through. Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo remembers it well, he was Minister of the Interior at the time. Since then, there have been cyberattacks against Finland, smear campaigns in the Russian media… Moscow has been increasing countermeasures since Finland joined NATO.
Juiss Laine, border specialist at the University of Eastern Finland: “ The idea is to create a certain level of anxiety, insecurity and even panic among the Finns, this time using migrants to put pressure on them. I advise you to remain calm and not give in to Russia’s provocation. »
Sowing trouble, destabilizing the population, deepening political divisions… With its 1,300 kilometers of borders with Russia, Finland is on the front line, and has already announced that it could close other crossing points with its neighbor.