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Finland shuts border with Russia

Finland will completely close its border with Russia for two weeks after a surge of asylum seekers crossing the frontier, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo announced Tuesday.

“This is Russia’s influence activity, and we do not accept that,” Orpo said at a press conference, according to Finnish news outlet Helsingin Sanomat. The two-week border closure will take effect between Wednesday and Thursday night and will end on December 13, the paper reported.

Helsinki’s move follows a decision by the European border agency Frontex last week to deploy border guards and other staff, along with equipment, to bolster Finland’s border control activities amid accusations by Finland that Moscow is stoking the migrant influx. Tension between the two countries has escalated since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine in 2022, prompting Finland to join the NATO military alliance.

On Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of using migration as a tool to pressure Finland. “NATO stands in solidarity with our ally Finland,” he said.

Late last week, Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reported that Russian embassies have started issuing visas to people from the Horn of Africa to enter Russia and then continue their journey to the Finnish border with the help of Moscow’s security services.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the claims, with the Russian foreign ministry saying a previous decision taken by Finland to close a number of checkpoints on the border with Russia is “unequivocally” provocative. 

In 2021, Poland repelled attempts by asylum seekers to cross its eastern border, as Belarus plotted to send thousands of migrants from the Middle East into the EU. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen denounced Minsk for orchestrating a “hybrid attack” on the bloc.

This story has been updated.