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Finland to build fences on border with Russia

A sign reads ‘Stop, border area,’ in a forest in the countryside of Imatra, south-eastern Finland

Shaken by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland is rushing to beef up security on its border with Russia in order to protect itself from hybrid threats, the interior ministry said Friday.

Fearing that Moscow could use migrants to exert political pressure, Helsinki plans legislative amendments that would facilitate the construction of sturdier fences on its 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) eastern border with Russia.

“The aim of the proposed law is to improve the operational capacity of the border guard in responding to the hybrid threats,” Anne Ihanus, a senior adviser at the interior ministry, told AFP.

“The war in Ukraine has contributed to the urgency of the matter,” Ihanus said.

Currently, the Nordic country’s borders are secured primarily with light wooden fences, used to stop livestock from wandering to the wrong side.

Crossing the border from places other than through official border crossing points is already prohibited.

“What we are aiming to build now is a sturdy fence with a real barrier effect,” said Sanna Palo, director of the Finnish border guards’ legal division.

“In all likelihood, the fence will not cover the entire eastern border, but will be targeted at locations considered to be the most important,” Palo said.

In the event of large-scale migration, the government’s proposal would also make it possible to concentrate asylum seekers at specific border crossings.

The amendments are scheduled to enter into force “as soon as possible.”

“The government will later make decisions on barriers to critical areas of the eastern border,” Interior Minister Krista Mikkonen said in a statement.

The government has yet to determine the budget for the project.

Finland is currently applying to join NATO, and Moscow has warned that the bid would be “a grave mistake with far-reaching consequences.”

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