At midnight, “anti-entry devices” will be installed at four border crossings between European neighbors.
Finland will place barriers at four of the eight border crossings it shares with Russia in a bid to stem the flow of asylum seekers.
The Finnish Border Guard said on Friday that barriers will be raised at midnight (22:00 GMT) at the Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala border crossings in southeastern Finland.
“Our goal is to use barrier devices to prevent entry,” Matti Pitkaniitty, head of international affairs of the Border Guard, told reporters. The measures taken are a response to changes in Russian border policy, he added.
Helsinki accused Moscow of encouraging illegal migrants to cross the border or turning a blind eye to them. Russia has denied these claims.
Earlier this week, Finland announced it would close four border crossings, which are the busiest travel points between the two countries, with around 3,000 people passing through each day.
Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said that in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow is seeking to destabilize his country in response to Helsinki’s decision to join NATO.
Finland’s actions were supported by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
“Russia’s instrumentalization of migrants is shameful. I fully support the actions taken by Finland,” von der Leyen said on Program X.
I talked to the PM @PetteriOrpo who informed me about the situation on the border with Russia.
Russia’s instrumentalization of migrants is shameful.
I fully support the measures taken by Finland.
I also thank the Finnish Border Guard for protecting our European borders.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 16, 2023
Finland’s neighbor Norway, which borders Russia in the Arctic, said it was also ready to close its border at short notice if necessary.
From Saturday, asylum seekers arriving through Russia will only be able to submit applications at the two northern border crossings, in Salla and Vartius, Pitkaniitty said.
The border closure comes amid rising tensions between Russia and Finland over Helsinki’s military alliances since the beginning of Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Finland shares a 1,340 km (833 mi) border with Russia, which also serves as the European Union’s external border.
After Russia invaded Ukraine last February, EU member Finland abandoned its decades-long policy of military non-alignment. The country joined NATO in April.
Russia then said it would take unspecified “countermeasures” in response.
Since then, the Finnish Border Guard has recorded an increase in the number of illegal arrivals, mainly from Africa and the Middle East.
Finland’s non-discrimination ombudsman said on Thursday that Helsinki still has an obligation under international treaties and EU law to enable asylum seekers to seek protection.
Finland is building a 200 km (124 mi) long fence along a section of the border, which is expected to be completed by 2026.